Criticism of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a “red line” for Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.
Speaking to BBC Adel al-Jubeir he said that negative comments about Prince Mohammed or his father King Salman would not be tolerated.
“In Saudi Arabia our leadership is a red line. The custodian of the two holy mosques (King Salman) and the crown prince are a red line,” Jubeir said.
“They represent every Saudi citizen and every Saudi citizen represents them. And we will not tolerate any discussion of anything that is disparaging towards our monarch or our crown prince.”
Crown Prince Mohammed has come under fire after the murder of Khashoggi on 2 October at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, after reports linking him to the killing.
After repeated denials that Riyadh was in any way linked to his death, Saudi Arabia claimed a group of rogue officials killed Khashoggi without the knowledge of the crown prince.
The CIA believed the crown prince – who holds most powerful positions in Saudi Arabia – knew about the killing, according to reports this week.
Jubeir insisted that Prince Mohammed had not been involved in the killing.
“We have made that very clear. We have investigations ongoing and we will punish the individuals who are responsible for this,”
he said, referring to the 21 people placed under arrest by the Saudis, in connection to the killing.
Jubeir questioned Turkey’s evidence – which also points to Mohammed bin Salman being responsible – and the intelligence leaks to the press over the past few weeks.
He also said any possible US sanctions on Saudi Arabia would be short-sighted.
This seems unlikely given that US President Donald Trump appeared to give Saudi Arabia a free pass on Khashoggi’s murder, praising the kingdom for keeping oil prices low.
A day earlier he said Prince Mohammed could have been responsible for the killing.
Khashoggi was a critic of the crown prince who was based in the UAE, and was reportedly lured to the consulate in Istanbul where he was murdered by a team of Saudi agents sent to Turkey to kill him.
He was then dismembered with his body parts allegedly dissolved in acid or smuggled out of the consulate, according to Turkish intelligence.