Saudis sent ‘cover-up team’ to dispose of Khashoggi body, Turkish media reports
- Newspaper claims chemist and toxicology expert were part of ‘so-called investigative team’ that removed evidence from consulate before police were allowed in
Saudi Arabia deployed a chemist and toxicology expert to Istanbul after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to try to cover up evidence of the killing, a Turkish newspaper and an official in Ankara said on Monday.
The murder of the Saudi royal insider turned critic in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul has provoked widespread international outrage.
Turkish authorities have released gruesome details of a killing that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said was a targeted hit.
While Riyadh officials have admitted the murder was planned, they have so far not revealed the whereabouts of the 59-year-old journalist’s body.
According to Turkey’s pro-government Sabah daily, Saudi Arabia sent an 11-member “cover-up team” to Istanbul on October 11, nine days after The Washington Post contributor vanished after entering the diplomatic compound to obtain paperwork for his marriage.
The paper said chemist Ahmad Abdulaziz Aljanobi and toxicology expert Khaled Yahya Al-Zahrani were among “the so-called investigative team”, which visited the consulate every day until October 17, before leaving Turkey on October 20.
“We believe that the two individuals came to Turkey for the sole purpose of covering up evidence of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder before the Turkish police were allowed to search the premises,” a senior Turkish official said, asking not to be named.
The official confirmed the Sabah report’s claim about Aljanobi and Al-Zahrani.
Saudi Arabia only allowed Turkish police to search the consulate on October 15.
Turkey’s chief prosecutor said last week that Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the consulate, then dismembered. Other reports have said the body may even have been dissolved in acid.
In an editorial published in The Washington Post, Erdogan accused authorities in Riyadh of refusing to answer key questions about the murder, despite their arrest of 18 suspects a fortnight ago.
He said the order to murder the journalist came from “the highest levels” of the Saudi government, although he insisted he did “not believe for a second” King Salman was to blame.
But he pointedly failed to absolve Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of responsibility for unleashing a “death squad” against the outspoken Saudi journalist.
The murder has badly tainted the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
Saudi Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb met Turkish authorities last week in Istanbul but refused to share information from Riyadh’s own investigation, according to Turkish officials.