Geneva: An independent UN human rights expert investigating the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Wednesday recommended an investigation into the possible role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, citing "credible evidence."
The 101-page report released by Agnes Callamard into the October killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul calls on UN bodies or Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to "demand" a follow-up criminal investigation.
Callamard noted the "extreme sensitivity" of considering the criminal responsibility of the crown prince, as well as Saud Alqahtani, a senior adviser to the Saudi royal court who has not been charged.
"No conclusion is made as to guilt," she wrote of the two men. "The only conclusion made is that there is credible evidence meriting further investigation, by a proper authority, as to whether the threshold of criminal responsibility has been met."
She wrote that there was "no reason why sanctions should not be applied against the Crown Prince and his personal assets" — noting that sanctions regimes have been put in place in the past even before guilt was determined.
But she played down the focus on a single person, writing: "The search for justice and accountability is not singularly dependent on finding a 'smoking gun' or the person holding it."
She wrote that her focus was mainly on identifying those who may have failed in or abused their positions of authority.
Eleven people are on trial in Saudi Arabia in largely secret proceedings, and five could face the death penalty.
Callamard wrote that she obtained access to a recording of the killing on October 2. She said she had received information about a "financial package" offered to Khashoggi's children, "but it is questionable whether such package amounts to compensation under international human rights law."
Callamard noted limitations on her inquiry, which began in January. She received no response to her request to travel to Saudi Arabia. She wrote that she had received only a total of 45 minutes of tapes recorded within the consulate around the time of the killing, while Turkish intelligence had referenced some 7 hours of recordings.
The report offers gruesome, nearly minute-by-minute accounting of the events surrounding the killing, and cites sounds of a buzzing saw that could have been used to dismember Khashoggi's body.
She also identified by name 15 suspects in the case.
The US State Department has publicly designated 16 people for their roles in the killing of Khashoggi. Many US lawmakers have criticized President Donald Trump for not condemning Saudi Arabia for the journalist's killing.
However, Saudi slammed the report as "unfounded". "It is not new. The (UN) report reiterates what has already been published and circulated in the media," Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, said on Twitter.
"The report... contains clear contradictions and unfounded allegations, casting doubt on its credibility."
Meanwhile, the Turkey has backed the UN expert report calling for those involved in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to be held accountable.
"Strongly endorse #UN Rapporteur @AgnesCallamard's recommendations for elucidating Khashoggi's murder&holding those responsible accountable," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.