Jamal Khashoggi

Jump to:
PEN America Advocacy
Case Background
Case Updates

Saudi Arabian journalist, Washington Post contributor, and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by government agents inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2, 2018. Following the release of evidence and a UN special investigation of the killing, it is clear that Khashoggi’s murder was pre-planned and meticulously organized. Mounting evidence has implicated the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in approving and overseeing his killing. Khashoggi’s murder has put Saudi Arabia and the crown prince at the center of a global controversy and illustrated the indifference of the Saudi government to international norms regarding press freedom, free expression, and the right to dissent. 

As many global leaders have yet to hold Mohammed bin Salman directly accountable, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi continues to be plagued with impunity. PEN America, along with numerous other actors, continues to call for accountability for those ultimately responsible for ordering Khashoggi’s assassination.

PEN America Advocacy

Lawmakers and Advocates Remember Jamal Khashoggi

PEN America President Jennifer Egan joined lawmakers on Capitol Hill for a memorial event on the 100th day since Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

September 30, 2020: PEN America writes letters to Representative Gerry Connolly and Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Representative Eliot Engel in support of the “Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act of 2019” to hold Kingdom of Saudi Arabia responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi and threats against other vocal critics of the Kingdom.

March 26, 2020: PEN America releases a press statement welcoming the news that Turkish authorities indicted 20 Saudi officials for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, despite obstruction by the Saudi government and inaction by the U.S. government. PEN America renews its calls for U.S. director of national intelligence to abide by U.S. law and send to Congress an unclassified report identifying those responsible and complicit in Khashoggi’s killing.

October 1, 2019: PEN America joins over 20 other human rights organizations in issuing a statement to the Saudi authorities and the international community advocating for justice for Jamal Khashoggi. Among general calls to adhere to international human rights standards, the statement calls on Saudi authorities to return the remains of Khashoggi’s body to his family and to cooperate with independent investigations into his murder. The statement also calls on the international community to take substantive action against Saudi Arabia, including a moratorium on arms and surveillance technology sales and to ensure that those responsible for Khashoggi’s murder are brouight to justice. 

September 26, 2019: Joined by 12 other human rights and press freedom organizations, PEN America co-sponsors a public event on Capitol Hill with congress members, public officials, activists, and family members to commemorate the life of Jamal Khashoggi and continue to advocate for those threatened by Saudi Arabia’s repressive regime. PEN America’s Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs Karin Deutsch Karlekar condemns the dire conditions for free expression in Saudi Arabia and calls on the United States to hold the Saudi Government accountable for their treatment of imprisoned activists such as Loujain Al-Hathloul. Other speakers include Senator Tim Kaine and Representative Gerry Connolly from Khashoggi’s home state of Virginia, as well as Lina Al-Hathloul, sister of Loujain Al-Hathloul. In her remarks, Lina Al-Hathloul asks the public to “Talk about these arrests. Ask questions, call for action. Most importantly,” she continues, “I beg you, never forget.”

June 19, 2019: PEN America releases a press statement calling on the international community to conduct an independent investigation into the crown prince Mohammad bin Salman’s role in the murder and especially the United States Congress to ensure some measure of accountability for the killing.

February 13, 2019:  Summer Lopez, PEN America’s Senior Director of Free Expression Programs, publishes “A Continued Call: Jamal Khashoggi’s Murderers Must Be Held Accountable.”

February 8, 2019:  Following the refusal of Trump administration to respond to Congress as required under the Magnitsky Act, PEN America expresses deep disappointment in the abdication of leadership of the US in defending internationally recognized human rights.

February 7, 2019:  PEN America signs a Joint NGO Statement with the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Justice Initiative, and Reporters Without Borders expressing deep concern about the lack of transparency and accountability relating to the murder of Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi as well as with respect to Saudi Arabia’s persecution of other journalists and dissidents.

PEN America’s Washington Director, Tom Melia, joins representatives of partner organizations to speak in front of the White House and call for the Administration to be responsive to Congressional demands for accountability in Khashoggi’s murder.

January 25, 2019:  PEN America applauds the initiative of Agnès Callamard, current UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, for a week-long visit to Turkey before she finalizes a report to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June.

January 10, 2019:  PEN America marks 100 days since Khashoggi’s murder by co-hosting a memorial event on Capitol Hill where President Jennifer Egan speaks alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Members of Congress. As part of her remarks, Egan says, “As a novelist and journalist myself who works with fellow writers worldwide, Jamal Khashoggi’s murder felt like an assault on our family…By honoring and remembering him, we remind the Saudi government—and our own—that murdering journalists is not just barbaric and grotesque, but incapable of stifling their voices.” The event also features a portrait of Jamal Khashoggi by regular PEN contributor, Molly Crabtree, and Saudi artist Ms. Safaa.

PEN America also invites members of the public to sign a petition calling for a UN investigation into Khashoggi’s murder.

November 2, 2018:  Marking one month since Khashoggi’s murder, as well as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, PEN America issues an open letter signed by more than 100 writers, journalists, artists, and activists, including Meryl Street, J.K. Rowling, Bob Woodward, Zadie Smith, Patrick Stewart, and Margaret Atwood, and calling on the United Nations to authorize an impartial international investigation. The letter is covered in The Guardian, USA Today, and The Washington Post

PEN America’s Washington Director, Tom Melia, speaks at a memorial service for Khashoggi, held in Washington, DC.

October 19, 2018:  PEN America responds to the Saudi government’s admission that Khashoggi died at their Consulate in Istanbul, claiming he died “after a fight,” by saying “The admission by Saudi authorities that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in their custody plainly exposes all their previous claims about his fate as flagrant lies. It is absurd to entrust the investigation of Khashoggi’s murder to those most likely to have ordered it; Turkey should call on the UN Secretary General to authorize an independent, international investigation to expose the truth and lay the groundwork for holding those behind this grievous crime fully responsible. The Saudi regime must not be allowed to hide behind lies in order to literally get away with murder.” The statement is quoted in The New Yorker and the New Civil Rights Movement.

October 6, 2018:  PEN America releases a statement condemning the reported assassination of Khashoggi, saying that “If Khashoggi was indeed murdered inside a diplomatic facility, it is an act of terror that echoes Russian and Chinese tactics of extra-territorial, extra-judicial attacks on dissidents, intended to intimidate any who would speak out against the Saudi government, no matter where they may be, and giving the lie to official narratives of ‘reform’ in Saudi Arabia.” The statement is quoted in Teen Vogue, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press, and PEN America staff are subsequently interviewed by the Daily Beast, El Araby, Al Jazeera, and Politico.


Jamal Khashoggi began his journalism career as a correspondent for the Saudi Gazette newspaper. As a journalist, he was known for his coverage of Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, and the Middle East, particularly for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and his multiple interviews with Osama Bin Laden before he became the leader of al-Qaeda. Khashoggi also worked as media advisor to Prince Turki bin Faisal, former head of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate, who once served as the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

Once close to the inner circles of the Saudi royal family, Khashoggi was subject to a rigorous silencing regime by the Saudi authorities in recent years. He was dismissed from his position as editor-in-chief of a progressive paper, Al-Watan, in 2003 and again in 2010. Later he was appointed as the general manager of the Al Arab news channel, but it was shut down shortly after its launch in February 2015. After he made critical remarks regarding President Trump’s Middle East policies at a conference held at the Washington Institute in November 2016, Khashoggi’s column in Al-Hayat, one of the most widely read Arabic dailies, was cancelled, and he was banned from publishing in Saudi papers, appearing on TV, or attending conferences.

Concerned about his safety in Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi went into self-imposed exile in September 2017 and moved to the United States, where he began to write for the Washington Post as a columnist. In his first article, he expressed fears of being arrested and concerns over the safety of his friends in Saudi Arabia. He wrote, “I have left my home, my family, and my job, and I am raising my voice.” He continued to criticize Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s actions in connection with the recent crackdown in Saudi Arabia, where many high profile arrests had taken place. He was also outspoken about the declining status of free expression in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. His latest article was published on October 17, which was sent to the Washington Post by Khashoggi’s assistant a day after his disappearance. Calling for free expression in the Arab world, the article reflects on the failed promises of Arab Spring and state-run narratives that command the members of Arab society.

Though based in Virginia, Khashoggi was in Istanbul with his Turkish fiancée and had gone to the Consulate in Istanbul to procure a document required for his upcoming marriage to her.


October 20, 2020: Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, and Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn) file a lawsuit in the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia against Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, seeking unspecified damages against the crown prince and 28 “co-conspirators” over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

September 28, 2020: Turkish prosecutors file a second indictment against six Saudi suspects for their involvement in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Those indicted include two consulate staff members accused of carrying out the murder, and four individuals accused of tampering with evidence; the six of them left Turkey after the murder. Four of the individuals face up to five years in prison, while two individuals face life sentences. 

September 7, 2020: In its final ruling, a Saudi court sentences five individuals to 20 years in prison, one individual to 10 years in prison, and two individuals to seven years in prison for their involvement in the killing of Khashoggi. The decision to overturn the death sentences for the eight unnamed individuals reportedly comes after Khashoggi’s sons “pardoned” the killers, while fiancée Cengiz has called the decision a “mockery of justice.”

May 22, 2020: Jamal Khashoggi’s children publicly forgive the five government agents indicted for their father’s killing, sparing them the death penalty. In response, Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, publicly rejects the pardon, and says she will continue to fight until there is justice for Khashoggi.

March 25, 2020: Turkish prosecutors charge 20 Saudi men for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The indictment names former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri and the royal court’s former media czar Saud al-Qahtani and accuses the two of “incitement to first degree murder.” The Saudi public prosecutor exonerated al-Assiri and al-Qahtani in December 2019, a decision at odds with UN Special Rapporteur Callamard’s investigation. The indictment also charges 18 others with murder. Turkish authorities are seeking life sentences for all 20 individuals.

March 3, 2020: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), together with Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-VA), calls on the Trump administration to declassify information related to Khashoggi’s death. This came on the heels of a similar request by the House Intelligence Committee in late February and signals that the push for the Khashoggi information is now bipartisan. Burr tells CNN that it represents a last-ditch appeal to Trump by Republican leadership before Senate Democrats attempt to use Senate rules to force the release of the classified report.

February 11, 2020: In a video posted on Twitter, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancé, urge the American public to pressure their representatives to bring those responsible for the murder Jamal Khashoggi to justice.

January 24, 2020: United States Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announces that he plans to move to declassify intelligence material and compel the Trump administration to release a report on the October 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi. The administration has previously ignored a deadline to produce a report the month prior. The same day, film director Bryan Fogel premieres “The Dissident,” a film about Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi government, at the Sundance Film Festival.

December 23, 2019: Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor reveals that five people have been sentenced to the death penalty for Khashoggi’s murder. Three people are sentenced to prison terms. However, two top officials, deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri and the royal court’s media czar Saud al-Qahtani, are exonerated “due to insufficient evidence.” Names, evidence, and testimony in the trial remain secret. Agnès Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, calls the outcome of the trial “the antithesis of justice,” adding that “the masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial.”

December 10, 2019: The U.S. State Department bars former Saudi diplomat Mohammed al-Otaibi from entering the United States. Al-Otaibi is on the list of 17 diplomats sanctioned by the Trump administration, first instituted in November 2018.

September 29, 2019: Correspondent Norah O’Donnell interviews the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, airing on 60 Minutes. O’Donnell asks the crown prince, “did you order the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?” Mohammed bin Salman responds, “Absolutely not. This was a heinous crime. But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.”

September 9, 2019: The Turkish newspaper Sabah publishes a report including transcripts of audio from inside the Saudi consulate during the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. ABC News confirmed the authenticity of the transcripts with Turkish authorities. 

June 19, 2019:  The UN Special Rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, publishes a report on Khashoggi’s murder, finding Saudi Arabia responsible for “premediated execution.” Addressing Saudi Arabia’s violations of international law, Callamard urges other states to claim universal jurisdiction and international organizations to conduct follow up criminal investigations.

May 16, 2019: Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, testifies on Capitol Hill alongside other representatives from press freedom and human rights groups, asking Congress to take necessary actions regarding his case.

March 15, 2019: Jamal Khashoggi is included on a list of 10 most urgent cases of journalists whose free expression is at risk and where justice is demanded by the world. The list is put together by the One Free Press Coalition, a group composed of leading news organizations such as Reuters, the Associated Press, Time, Huffington Post to spotlight journalists under attack globally.

March 7, 2019: Expressing concerns for the unjust detainment of Saudi women and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the UN Human Rights Council has witnessed the first collective rebuke against Saudi Arabia issued through a joint statement signed by 36 states calling on the kingdom to disclose all information relating to the murder and cooperate with all investigations including the UN inquiry led by Callamard.

March 4, 2019: Following a briefing regarding the Khashoggi murder held by the administration on Monday, a bi-partisan group of senators has reportedly expressed their deep dissatisfaction and frustration over the handling of the investigations and the violation of Magnitsky act.

February 8, 2019: The Trump administration refuses to meet the deadline to respond to Congress’s invocation of the Global Magnitsky Act, which legally required the Trump administration to determine the responsibility for the Khashoggi murder.

February 7, 2019: Communicating the early findings of her probe following the week-long visit to Turkey, Agnès Callamard indicates that Khashoggi murder was premeditated and executed by the officials of Saudi Arabia who also undermined attempts for an effective and through investigation. Callamard calls on officials to cooperate on any intelligence regarding the murder before she finalizes the report to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June. The same day, following the lack of substantive action from the Trump administration against the key ally, the Senate advances a bipartisan bill to cut U.S. support to the Saudi-led coalition involved in the Yemeni civil war and hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

January 25, 2019: Agnès Callamard, current UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, announces that she will lead a team of three international experts to conduct an initial inquiry into the October 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey.

January 21, 2019: Criticizing Saudi Arabia’s reluctance to cooperate on the Khashoggi murder, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, says that Turkey is preparing to take steps to launch an international investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

December 29, 2018: “Diplomatic Atrocity: The Dark Secrets of the Khashoggi Murder,” a book revealing the details of and giving fresh insights into the killing of Khashoggi, is published in Turkey. Written by investigative journalists Abdurrahman Şimşek, Ferhat Ünlü, and Nazif Karaman, the 384-page book researches the moments leading to the murder of Khashoggi and its aftermath. In revealing new information on the murder, the book draws on voice recordings of the killing, parts of which were previously cited by Turkish officials as evidence. The authors are journalists who write for Sabah, a newspaper known for its close ties to the government and also to Turkish intelligence agencies, and who regularly cover intelligence topics. They indicate that they never listened to the recordings themselves, nor had access to the transcripts of the recordings, but were briefed by reliable sources who had direct access to them. They do not explain, however, how Turkish intelligence got hold of the recordings themselves, which is still a subject of much speculation. Although Sabah had reported on October 13, 2018 that recordings were made by Khashoggi himself with his Apple Watch, the release of these records by Apple and the government’s ability to access them would be very difficult, experts say.

January 10, 2019: The 100th day since Khashoggi’s murder is marked by a bi-partisan memorial held at Capitol Hill and attended by Members of Congress, journalists and writers, and activists.

January 3, 2019: The trial of 11 individuals over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi begins in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The Saudi prosecutor is asking for the death penalty for 5 of 11 suspects charged with the murder. The potential fairness of the trial has been criticized by both the US and the UN. The justice system in Saudi Arabia is governed by Sharia (Islamic Law) and the absence of a standard criminal code will likely curtail a fair trial process. 

December 13, 2018: Members of the United States Senate unanimously vote for a resolution officially blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggi’s death. The resolution is passed right after the Senate passed another resolution to end military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. Although the resolution is largely symbolic, it is valuable as it puts the light on President Trump, who had expressed that he stood together with the Saudi ruling family despite Khashoggi’s murder in November. The resolution was denounced by the Saudi government.

December 12, 2018: Time Magazine names Jamal Khashoggi and other persecuted journalists such as Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo ‘person of the year.’

November 20, 2018: President Trump publishes a statement in which he declares that he won’t hold Saudi rulers accountable for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, citing the need to prioritize arms sales and purported security alliances.

November 16, 2018: The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) concludes that the Saudi Crown Prince ordered Khashoggi killed. Funeral services are held around the globe for Khashoggi, who is mourned in absentia.

November 15, 2018: The United States government places economic sanctions on 17 Saudis allegedly involved in the killing, including top aide of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, Saud al-Qahtani. The sanctions are to be implemented under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which targets the perpetrators of serious human rights abuses and corruption. A separate group of US senators introduces legislation that would suspend weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and prohibit US refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft conducting air raids in Yemen. On the same day, the Saudi Arabian government says that five out of the 11 suspects it has identified are facing a possible death sentence. 

November 10, 2018: Turkey shares recordings of Khashoggi’s killing with the United States, Germany, France, and Britain. The recording shows that a 15-member assassination squad was involved in the journalist’s killing.

November 4, 2018: In an interview with the CNN, two of Khashoggi’s sons, Salah and Abdullah Khashoggi, appeal to Turkish and Saudi authorities for the return of their father’s body.

November 2, 2018: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the order to murder the journalist came from “the highest levels” of Saudi Arabia’s government. A Turkish official claims that Khashoggi’s body was dissolved in acid.

October 25, 2018: Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor says that Khashoggi’s killing “appeared to have been premeditated.” This is a shift from the previous explanation that the journalist had been killed in a ‘fist fight’.

October 20, 2018: After two weeks of denials, the Saudi government acknowledges that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, claiming that he was killed in a fistfight—a claim that draws immediate disbelief.  

October 18, 2018: A number of senior officials withdraw from a major economic forum to be held in Riyadh on October 23 in response to Khashoggi’s disappearance. France, Germany, the U.K., and the Netherlands suspend political visits to Saudi Arabia, demanding clarifications on the disappearance of Khashoggi.

The United States asks Turkey for an audio recording of Jamal Khashoggi’s death, which could provide evidence that he was tortured before he was killed inside the Saudi consulate.

October 15, 2018: A Turkish forensics team searches the Saudi consulate.

October 11, 2018: President Trump says the United States is assisting Turkey with the investigation of Khashoggi’s disappearance.

October 10, 2018: More than 20 U.S. Senators sign a bipartisan letter directed at President Trump, triggering the terms of the Global Magnitsky Act, which demands an investigation on whether foreign persons are responsible for an extrajudicial killing. This could result in the imposition of sanctions against Saudi Arabia.

Leaked surveillance footage shows both Khashoggi and the purported team that killed him.

October 6, 2018: The Consul General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul gives a tour of the Saudi consulate building to Reuters news agency to show that Khashoggi is not on the premises. 

Meanwhile, Turkish sources claim that Khashoggi was killed inside the building.

October 5, 2018: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says in an interview with Bloomberg News in Riyadh that he believes the journalist left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul alive, but the Kingdom does not support these claims with evidence. He says Turkish authorities can search inside the consulate.

October 4, 2018: Turkey summons the Saudi ambassador in Ankara to the foreign ministry. Saudi officials announce on Twitter that they are closely following Khashoggi’s case and working with Turkish authorities on his investigation. 

October 3, 2018: The Saudi government issues a statement confirming Khashoggi is missing but says that he disappeared after he left the building. Turkish authorities claim that he never left. No video evidence is released confirming that he left the building alive.

October 2, 2018: Khashoggi enters the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in order to collect paperwork confirming his divorce from his former Saudi wife, in order to marry Hatice Cengiz, his fiancé. Cengiz was waiting outside for him but when he did not come out for several hours, she contacted the Turkish police concerning his safety.

Evidence later emerges that 15 Saudis, including a forensics experts and security and intelligence officials, arrive in Istanbul on both commercial and private flights.

September 28, 2018: Khashoggi makes a first trip to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in order to inquire about obtaining documents needed for his planned second marriage. He is told to come back the following week to collect them.

September 2017: After several months in self-imposed exile, Jamal Khashoggi starts writing columns for the Washington Post.


Jamal Khashoggi’s columns in the Washington Post can be found here.

Khashoggi’s off-air conversation with BBC Newshour program was released after three days of his disappearance. 


Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, is one of the most restrictive countries in the world, but conditions have worsened even further under de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Although the Crown Prince initially styled himself as a ‘reformer,’ he has overseen a vast crackdown on all forms of opposition and dissent. In November 2018, the CIA concluded that the Crown Prince ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. In a Washington Post column dated May 21, 2018, in which he wrote about the arrests of activists, Khashoggi wrote: “The message is clear to all: Activism of any sort has to be within the government, and no independent voice or counter-opinion will be allowed. Everyone must stick to the party line.”