Turkish president says the question of who ordered the murder of journalist must be answered
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor, who visited on Tuesday the consulate in Istanbul where Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, to investigate who ordered the hit on the journalist.
Khashoggi’s death has brought near unprecedented international scrutiny on Saudi Arabia and its powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the journalist’s fiancée has accused the regime of a massive cover-up.
Erdogan, who says a 15-person team traveled from Riyadh to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi, has pressed Saudi authorities to reveal the truth—including the location of the Washington Post contributor’s missing body.
“Who sent these 15 people? As Saudi public prosecutor, you have to ask that question, so you can reveal it,” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara on Tuesday, shortly after the head of the Saudi investigation entered the kingdom’s consulate. “Now we have to solve this case. No need to prevaricate, it makes no sense to try to save certain people,” said Erdogan, who has stopped short of directly blaming the Saudi government.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to draw a line under the crisis after offering a series of differing narratives following the journalist’s disappearance.
Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb traveled to Istanbul this week after being the first Saudi official to acknowledge the killing was “premeditated” based on the results of Turkey’s investigation. He met Istanbul chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan on Monday and asked to be given the full findings of the Turkish investigation, including all images and audio recordings, Turkish broadcaster TRT reported.
The Turkish investigators rejected the request, TRT said, instead calling on the Saudi prosecutor to reveal information about the location of Khashoggi’s body. They also repeated Erdogan’s call for the 18 suspects detained by Saudi Arabia over the murder to be sent to Turkey for trial, according to TRT. Riyadh has refused the request.
Mojeb met with Turkish investigators again on Tuesday before visiting the consulate for around an hour and a half and leaving without making a statement.
Khashoggi, 59, was an insider in Saudi royal circles before going into self-imposed exile in the United States last year after falling out with the crown prince. He entered the consulate to obtain paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz.
On Monday, Cengiz called on world leaders—and in particular U.S. President Donald Trump—to do more to expose what really happened. “I am extremely disappointed by the stance of the leadership of many countries, particularly in the U.S.,” Cengiz told a memorial event in London. “President Trump should help reveal the truth and ensure justice be served. He should not allow my fiancé’s murder to be covered up.” She said she believed the Saudi regime knew where Khashoggi’s body was and called for the “evil criminals and their cowardly political masters” to be held to account.
Trump has called the case “one of the worst cover-ups in history,” but warned against halting a Saudi arms deal to increase pressure on Riyadh, saying it would harm U.S. jobs.
Riyadh initially insisted that Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, but as pressure grew, Saudi state media changed the story and said Khashoggi died when an argument descended into a brawl. The story was undercut by footage, which Erdogan confirmed, of a Saudi official acting as a body double for Khashoggi, wearing the journalist’s clothes when leaving the consulate to pretend to be the dead man.
The Saudi leadership has since blamed a “rogue operation.”
The search for Khashoggi’s body continues, after gruesome reports in the Turkish media alleged it was cut up into multiple pieces.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday called for international experts to take part in the investigation. “The participation of international experts, with full access to evidence and witnesses, would be highly desirable,” Michelle Bachelet said in a statement. “I urge the Saudi authorities to reveal the whereabouts of the body without delay,” she added.
Beyond the detention of the 18 suspects, five Saudi intelligence chiefs have been sacked, including two who were part of Prince Mohammed’s inner circle. The affair has tarnished the image the crown prince, the de facto leader of the oil-rich Gulf nation, who has positioned himself as a Saudi reformer. He has denounced the murder as “repulsive” and strongly denied any involvement.