Khashoggi’s killing ‘a political murder’ planned days in advance by Saudis, says Turkey’s Erdogan
- Turkish president called journalist’s death a ‘savage murder’ and said he wants to know where the body is
- Erdogan said the surveillance system at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was deactivated on purpose before Khashoggi was killed in the building.
Jamal Khashoggi’s death in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul was a “savage murder” and those responsible should be extradited to Turkey to stand trial, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted in a highly-anticipated speech on Tuesday.
“All evidence gathered shows that Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a savage murder. To cover up such a savagery would hurt the human conscience,” he said of the Saudi journalist’s death on October 2.
In an address to members of his Justice and Development Party (AKP), which he had promised would reveal the “naked truth”, Erdogan said the killing was planned days in advance and the Saudi consulate’s surveillance system was deactivated at the time.
“First [the Saudis implicated] removed the hard disc from the camera system,” Erdogan said. “This is a political murder.”
The Turkish leader said he wanted to know “who gave orders” for the killing and said the 18 Saudi suspects should be tried in Istanbul, insisting diplomatic immunity was not “armour” for murder.
“To blame such an incident on a handful of security and intelligence members would not satisfy us or the international community,” Erdogan said. “Saudi Arabia has taken an important step by admitting the murder. As of now we expect of them to openly bring to light those responsible – from the highest ranked to the lowest – and to bring them to justice.”
He also said he wants to know where the corpse is.
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Erdogan didn’t mention Saudi Arabia’s assertive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his speech, which followed weeks of leaks by Turkish police that implied the prince must have known about plans for a murder.
The prince and King Salman met members of Khashoggi’s family on Tuesday, according to Saudi media. Khashoggi’s son Salah and brother Sahel visited the royal rulers at their palace in Riyadh, news agency SPA said.
Earlier, Saudi Arabia’s cabinet insisted it would hold accountable all those behind the murder.
“Measures have been taken by the kingdom to uncover the truth and hold accountable all those whose incompetence or immediate responsibility” was behind the killing “no matter who they may be” said a cabinet statement.
Khashoggi, a tough critic of Prince Mohammed, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate to collect a document for his forthcoming marriage.
The Saudi story has shifted sharply, from assertions he walked out of the consulate unharmed to finally acknowledging Khashoggi was killed, allegedly in a fist fight with “rogue” Saudi agents.
But from the start, Turkish officials have said Khashoggi was killed by a Saudi death squad dispatched to Istanbul from Riyadh and his body was then dismembered.
The crown prince has denied any knowledge of the killing, and his foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, insisted the operation was a terrible mistake carried out by a rogue group and was something that must “never happen again”. Jubeir pledged a “thorough and complete” investigation.
Saudi Arabia’s leadership will “see to it that the investigation is thorough and complete and that the truth is revealed and those responsible will be held to account”, he told reporters after meeting his Indonesian counterpart in Jakarta on Tuesday.
The Turkish drip of leaks has already forced Saudi Arabia to make an unprecedented admission of guilt, leading to the sacking of two of the crown prince’s closest aides and 18 other Saudi officers.
Turkish video leaks on Monday appeared to show the Saudis trying to cover their tracks after Khashoggi’s death, including images said to be of men at the consulate burning documents and a body double wearing the dead journalist’s clothes, to make it appear he walked out of the consulate as the Saudis claimed.
The leaks also seemed intended to whip up a sense of anticipation before the speech by Erdogan, who has accused the Saudis of not cooperating with the Turkish investigation but stopped short of blaming Riyadh for Khashoggi’s death.
The White House has also been making frantic private efforts to reduce the fallout from the Khashoggi killing, urging Erdogan not to embarrass the crown prince.
On Monday, US President Donald Trump said he was “not satisfied with what I’ve heard” about the case and told USA Today he believed the death was “a plot gone awry”.
However, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met the crown prince that evening in Riyadh and stressed “the importance of the Saudi-US strategic partnership”.
CIA Director Gina Haspel reportedly will travel to Istanbul to “work on the investigation”.
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Reuters, The Guardian, The Washington Post