The Saudis used a Khashoggi body double to walk around in his clothes

The real Jamal Khashoggi, entering the consulate.
The real Jamal Khashoggi, entering the consulate.
Image: CCTV/TRT World via AP
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On the day Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, a man who looked an awful lot like him was captured on CCTV cameras around the Turkish city.

That’s because, as a senior Turkish official told CNN, one of the men suspected in the killing of the dissident dressed up in his clothes and wore a fake beard. The lookalike wandered through the town’s landmarks, his image captured by security cameras. Same glasses as Khashoggi, same blazer as Khashoggi, different man altogether.

The Saudis seem to have hoped that the footage would be picked up organically and shared far and wide, providing evidence for their claim that the slain journalist had left the consulate unscathed through a back entrance on Oct. 2. The kingdom, however, eventually said Khashoggi died as a result of a fight inside that went awry. (Though in a Fox News interview yesterday (Oct. 21), the country’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, gave a different interpretation of events. He described Khashoggi’s death as a “murder” and said that the whereabouts of the body were unknown.)

CNN identified the body double as Mustafa al-Madani, described by an unnamed official as one of a 15-strong “hit squad” sent from Riyadh with the intention of catching Khashoggi unawares at a scheduled appointment to pick up the papers he needed for his wedding, scheduled for the following day.

At 57, Madani is around the same height, build and age as the journalist, who died at 59. He is a decade older than the others said to be members of the hit team. Earlier footage from the day shows a clean-shaven Madani entering the consulate wearing a checked shirt and dark trousers. When he left hours later, he was wearing an entirely different outfit—clothes Khashoggi had worn on his way in.

“Khashoggi’s clothes were probably still warm when Madani put them on,” a Turkish official told CNN. The fact that a lookalike was sent at all further undermines an already shaky Saudi story, he added. ”You don’t need a body double for a rendition or an interrogation. Our assessment has not changed since October 6. This was a premeditated murder and the body was moved out of the consulate.”

When pressed for comment by CNN, a Saudi spokesperson would not address questions about Madani’s precise role or why he was there, though he reiterated the previous line that Khashoggi’s death was an accident.