King Salman of Saudi Arabia stood by his son and crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, on Monday, avoiding any mention of the international anger toward the kingdom in his first public remarks since Saudi agents killed Khashoggi in Istanbul last month.
The echoes of that killing continued to spread, with Germany sanctioning 18 Saudis suspected of involvement and freezing arms exports to Saudi Arabia on Monday. And the Turkish defense minister suggested that Khashoggi's killers could have left the country with his body.
Khashoggi's killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul has become a lightning rod for Western criticism of Saudi Arabia, its human-rights record and the leadership of Mohammed, the kingdom's day-to-day ruler. A growing chorus of current and former Western officials have concluded that an operation as elaborate as the one to kill Khashoggi could not have been carried out without the prince's knowledge, and U.S. officials said last week that the CIA had concluded that the prince had ordered the killing.
Saudi officials have vehemently denied that the crown prince had any involvement in the death of Khashoggi, a Virginia resident who wrote columns for The Washington Post that were critical of some Saudi policies. They have portrayed the killing as a result of a rogue operation to return Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia.
The heightened scrutiny of Mohammed, 33, has caused speculation in some quarters that he could be pushed aside. But in Saudi Arabia's absolute monarchy, only his father has the authority to do so and in Monday's remarks he showed no intention to sideline his son.
In his annual address to the Shura Council, the kingdom's advisory assembly, the 82-year-old monarch stuck to general statements on official Saudi policy, calling on the world to stop Iran's nuclear program, press for political solutions to the wars in Syria and Yemen and keep up the fight against terrorism.
If the king made any reference to the aftermath of Khashoggi's killing, it was done obliquely.
He praised the country's public prosecutor, whose office is handling the official Saudi investigation into the killing. Last week, the prosecutor's office said it had filed criminal charges against 11 Saudis suspected of involvement in the killing and that it was seeking the death penalty against five of them, usually carried out in Saudi Arabia by beheading.
"We affirm that this country will never deviate from the application of Allah's law without any distinction or delay," the king said.
He also made a vague reference to governmental reforms to ensure that instructions are properly followed to "avoid any violations or mistakes."
Saudi Arabia has said that the operation that led to Khashoggi's death was carried out outside the chain of command. Last month, Salman announced the formation of a committee charged with restructuring the intelligence apparatus to prevent similar problems from occurring in the future.
Heading that committee is the crown prince.
Those steps have done little to cast doubt on the narrative laid out by Turkish officials that Khashoggi was suffocated soon after entering the consulate and then dismembered by a team of 15 Saudi agents who had flown in to do the job. Nor have the kingdom's frequently shifting explanations stemmed the anger in Western countries over the death.
Germany on Monday froze the delivery of previously approved arms exports to Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi. It also banned 18 Saudis from entering Europe's border-free Schengen zone because of their suspected involvement.
Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, told reporters in Brussels that his country had issued the ban for the 26-nation zone in close coordination with France, which is part of the Schengen Area, and Britain, which is not.
"As before, there are more questions than answers in this case, with the crime itself and who is behind it," Maas said.
Over the weekend, the United States announced sanctions on 17 Saudis suspected of involvement in the killing. The German list included the same names, plus that of Gen. Ahmed Asiri, the former deputy head of Saudi intelligence, who was fired after Khashoggi was killed.
A Section on 11/20/2018
Print Headline: Saudi king shows support of son