‘Decapitated’: Pompeo in Turkey as grisly details of Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged fate emerge
Reports suggest there was no attempt to interrogate journalist and Saudi team in Istanbul consulate began cutting him into pieces while he was still alive
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was tortured before being decapitated inside Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul, pro-government daily Yeni Safak reported on Wednesday, saying it heard audio recordings.
The report came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks with Turkish officials in Ankara about Khashoggi’s disappearance – a day after visiting Riyadh to discuss the mystery with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Khashoggi’s alleged killers tortured the journalist during interrogation by cutting his fingers off, Yeni Safak said, claiming it had heard several recordings of the incident.
The newspaper said Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, was then decapitated.
He vanished after entering the consulate for official documents for his wedding to his Turkish fiancée. Turkish police believe he was killed by a special team of 15 Saudi officials, but Riyadh has dismissed the claim as “baseless”.
The Washington Post has previously cited unnamed US and Turkish officials pointing to audio and video recordings that prove Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate then dismembered. But this is the first time Turkish media claimed to have heard them.
According to Yeni Safak, Saudi Arabia’s consul to Istanbul Mohammed al-Otaibi, can be heard on one recording saying during Khashoggi’s torture: “Do this outside. You are going to get me in trouble.”
The daily said in another recording, someone tells Otaibi: “If you want to live when you come to Saudi Arabia, be quiet.”
Otaibi left Istanbul on Tuesday for Riyadh after police said they planned to search his home as part of their investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Yeni Safak did not say how the recordings came into existence or how it obtained them.
The Middle East Eye website quoted a Turkish source saying there was “no attempt to interrogate” Khashoggi and the Saudi team had “come to kill him”.
One of the members of the Saudi team has been reported to be Salah Muhammed Al-Tubaigy, a lieutenant-colonel in the Saudi forensic department.
The source told the English-language site the killing took seven minutes, with Tubaigy beginning to cut up the body “while Khashoggi was still alive”.
Tubaigy reportedly listened to music while Khashoggi was killed and dismembered.
On Monday, CNN cited two sources as saying the Saudis are preparing a report saying the journalist’s death resulted from a botched interrogation.
Pompeo arrived in Ankara after talks with Saudi officials in Riyadh.
“They made a commitment that they would show the entire world the results of their investigation. They also indicated they would get this done quickly,” Pompeo said before arriving, adding the Saudis vowed that no one would have immunity.
But he refused to say whether he thought Khashoggi was alive or dead or who could be responsible.
“I don’t want to talk about any of the facts. They didn’t want to either,” he said.
Pompeo went straight into talks with Erdogan upon arrival.
The US State Department said he expressed concern about Khashoggi’s disappearance during the meeting and told the Turkish president Washington was willing to help with the investigation.
The United States has refused to rebuke its ally despite the mounting claims, with President Donald Trump insisting on the principle of innocence before being proven guilty and comparing the case with the treatment of new US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh who had faced a swirl of allegations of sexual assault.
“Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent,” he said. “I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned,” he told Associated Press.
Despite lurid allegations attributed to him published in the media, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also taken a circumspect line in the case, saying his priority is to uncover the truth.
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Turkish police on Monday night undertook an eight hour search at the consulate, taking away soil and DNA samples, although the search expected on Tuesday at the consul’s residence has so far not taken place.
Additional reporting by Reuters