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Turkish President Says Murder of Jamal Khashoggi Was 'Planned,' Calls for Extradition of Saudi Suspects
Tuesday, 23 October 2018 08:43

Excerpt: "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a 'planned' and 'brutal' murder and called on Saudi Arabia to extradite 18 suspects to Turkey to face justice for the crime."

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (photo: EPA)
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (photo: EPA)

Turkish President Says Murder of Jamal Khashoggi Was 'Planned,' Calls for Extradition of Saudi Suspects

By Kareem Fahim, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Chico Harlan, The Washington Post

23 October 18


urkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a “planned” and “brutal” murder and called on Saudi Arabia to extradite 18 suspects to Turkey to face justice for the crime.

Erdogan’s highly anticipated comments, during a speech to his ruling party in Ankara, the Turkish capital, contradicted Saudi accounts that Khashoggi was killed when an argument inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul escalated into a fistfight.  

The Turkish leader did not directly accuse the Saudi leadership of involvement in the killing but strongly indicated that the Saudi investigation, which has resulted in the arrests of 18 people so far, had not reached high enough into the kingdom’s ruling circles.  

“It will not satisfy the public by just pinning this kind of matter on a few security and intelligence officers,” he said. “Covering up this kind of savagery will hurt the conscience of all humanity.” 

“Saudi Arabia took an important step by accepting the murder. After this, we expect them to reveal those responsible for this matter. We have information that the murder is not instant, but planned,” he said.   

Erdogan did not address the most explosive allegations that have surfaced during the investigation — notably that Khashoggi was dismembered after he was killed. And he did not present any of the evidence Turkey had gathered so far, including audio recordings investigators are said to possess that captured the moments when Khashoggi was killed.

But the president provided the most detailed timeline yet of the days and hours leading up the murder on Oct. 2. He said a team of Saudi agents who were dispatched to Istanbul had carefully prepared for Khashoggi’s death.

The Saudi team that plotted the murder was first alerted, Erdogan said, after Khashoggi visited the consulate on Friday, Sept. 28. 

“Planning and the work of a road map starts here,” the president said. Beginning three days later, on Oct. 1, teams of Saudi agents begin arriving in Istanbul, with one team visiting wooded areas in and around Istanbul “for reconnaissance,” Erdogan said, referring to areas that Turkish police later focused on as they searched for Khashoggi’s body.  

After another team arrived at the Istanbul consulate, “the hard disk on the consulate camera is removed,” he added. The Saudi team consisted of “intelligence, security and forensic workers,” Erdogan said.

Khashoggi entered the mission at around 1:14 p.m. on Oct. 2. When he had not emerged a few hours later, his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting for him outside, alerted authorities, and an investigation was started, Erdogan said. Camera footage showed that Khashoggi had never left, he added.  

Erdogan highlighted attempts by the Saudis to obstruct or cover up the killing, including a ruse involving a Saudi agent who was dressed like Khashoggi and captured on camera exiting the consulate.

“Why did 15 people gather in Istanbul the day of the murder? Who did these people receive orders from?” he asked. “Why was the consulate opened not immediately but days later for investigation? When the murder was obvious, why were inconsistent explanations given?” 

“Why is the body still not found?” 

Addressing the Saudi monarch, King Salman, Erdogan requested that the 18 Saudi suspects arrested so far be put on trial in Istanbul. But notably, he made no mention of 33-year old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose possible role in the plot has come under scrutiny because of his almost complete consolidation of power in the kingdom as its de-facto leader.   

In a possible reference to the crown prince, who was put in charge of restructuring the Saudi intelligence directorate after Khashoggi’s death, Erdogan said it was important that any Saudi investigation be carried out “by an impartial and fair delegation” with no connections to the murder.  

Separately on Tuesday, the official Saudi Press Agency published photos of the king and the crown prince meeting two members of Khashoggi’s family, including his son.

One photo showed the son, Salah, looking ashen faced and shaking hands with the crown prince as a video cameraman stood in the background. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter that the leaders shared “their deepest condolences and sympathy to the family of Jamal Khashoggi, may God rest his soul.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Tuesday that the kingdom was committed to a “comprehensive investigation” into the journalist’s death and has dispatched a team to Turkey.

Speaking in Indonesia on Tuesday, Jubeir said the Saudi investigators had “uncovered evidence of a murder.” He also vowed to put mechanisms in place that would prevent similar incidents in future, without expanding upon what those would be. 

During Erdogan’s address Tuesday, lawmakers from his party sat mostly silent as the president detailed what his government knows about the operation that led to Khashoggi’s being killed. But when he shifted to his demands of the Saudi royals, the audience cheered enthusiastically at the mentions of Turkey’s sovereignty and authority to prosecute the suspects.

“For the first time, the president gave a clear statement about the details,” said Mehdi Eker, a lawmaker and senior member of Erdogan’s party. “The whole speech was aimed at getting answers.”

Eker said Erdogan’s articulated the nation’s priorities in the case: that there is a transparent and complete investigation that spares no official, no matter how senior, and that the suspects be extradited and tried in Turkey.

“This assassination happened in our country,” he said. “We will be following up on both the bilateral level and the international level.”

Asked if the president possessed evidence that the crown prince had directly ordered Khashoggi to be forced back to Saudi Arabia or assassinated, Eker responded, “of course not.”

“We do not have any clue about that,” he said, but added that Turkey is seeking to learn more about the role of the Saudi consul general in Istanbul in Khashoggi’s death. The consul general, Mohammed al-Otaibi, left Turkey last week and has not returned. Eker said the careful planning that began days before Khashoggi’s killing makes Otaibi a central figure to their investigation.

Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post who had written columns critical of the Saudi leadership over the last year, went to the consulate on the afternoon of Oct. 2 to obtain documents that would allow him to remarry.

His death has cast a harsh light on the rule of the Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who has eased social restrictions at home while pursuing an unrelenting crackdown on rivals and critics, imprisoning hundreds. Mohammed has also tried to lure exiled dissidents such as Khashoggi, who lived in Virginia, back to Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi’s friends and other exiles have said.

In Riyadh on Tuesday, Saudi authorities opened a landmark investment conference intended to signal afresh that the kingdom is open for business. 

But while the guest list for last year’s conference read like a who’s who of the global business elite, the run-up to Tuesday’s event has been marred by pullouts from a stream of Western investors and politicians, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde.  

Tuesday’s audience is expected to be dominated instead by representatives Middle Eastern, Asian and Russian companies, suggesting that the Western boycott may have a limited impact on Saudi economic prospects. 

The Khashoggi case has also embarrassed the Trump administration, which regards the crown prince as one of its closest Arab allies and Saudi Arabia as a cornerstone of a U.S. strategy to counter Iran. On Monday, CIA Director Gina Haspel headed to Turkey, where she is expected to assess the strength of the evidence that Turkish officials have been drip-feeding the media for weeks.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 October 2018 08:47