May 6, 2019
By Ali AlAhmed and Mustafa AlSadah
Washington DC – Former deputy head of Saudi intelligence Ahmed Assiri, who the Saudi government say ordered the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, is free at home, according to his niece Lama Assiri.
The revelation came Friday when she posted a smiling photo of her uncle at his palatial Riyadh home with his nephew, Lama’s brother Omar, who graduated from King Faisal Air Academy in Riyadh last Wednesday.
On November 15, 2018, the Saudi prosecutor office identified Ahmed Assiri as the mastermind of Khashoggi’s abduction and killing at a press conference, adding that suspects in Khashoggi’s death will be tried for murder. Per Saudi laws, people facing capital charges such as murder, rape, or terrorism are not allowed bail and must remain behind bars.
Lama’s tweet attracted substantial online response, which led her to close her account @l_assiri50 on May 4th, but not before she revealed her uncle’s photo was recent, and that he was in fact at home with his children and not facing trial.
“My uncle did not attend the graduation ceremony,” she explained. “He is innocent and is not facing a trial, thank God. He is at his home and among his children”, she said. In response to questions related to her other tweets, she said the photo was recent and taken Wednesday May 1st.
Pro-Saudi government twitter accounts tried to cast doubts on the date of the photo. Yousef Al Naimi, a Saudi national based in Washington, DC, who works closely with the government, tweeted that the photo is old. “Pic was taken 4 years ago,” he tweeted the later deleted the post after it became clear the photo was in fact authentic and taken only a few days ago.
Lama also posted a video of Omar’s graduation, where he can be seen receiving his credentials from the Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohamed bin Salman (MBS) as the announcer clearly states his name, Omar Moied Hasan Assiri. The graduation ceremony of the 96th class of King Faisal Air Academy was broadcast on Saudi government television and reported by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
SPA published a photo of the graduates with MBS, where Assiri can be seen standing in the third place from the right in the upper third row. In addition to Lama, her father Moied confirmed the authenticity of the photo when he retweeted pro-Saudi government Twitter personality, Monther AlMobarak, who runs a verified account.
Moied posted a photo of his brother Ahmed in June 29, 2016 to congratulate him for promotion to a brigadier-general. Moied’s account was created in 2011, eliminating possibility of a fake account.
Eli Lopez, Senior Editor, Global Opinions at the Washington Post, where Khashoggi worked, said in a statement: “If this is in fact true, it’s further proof that Saudi Arabia is not interested in justice and accountability. They have been purposefully opaque about this entire process. Our reporting has revealed that several people linked to the monstrous murder of our colleague Jamal Khashoggi are in fact free. We have demanded full transparency in this so-called trial – but they have refused to allow international media and observers to cover the proceedings. Until this happens, we will continue to hold the Crown Prince responsible for silencing an honest journalist for simply doing his job.”
The revelation may cause embarrassment to Michael Pompeo, the American Secretary of State, who vowed on several occasion to hold those responsible for the killing accountable. The State Department did not reply to emails requesting comment.