Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan informed his country’s lawmakers on Tuesday that Turkey has “strong evidence” that the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was “planned” in advance by Saudi officials.
He suggested that the suspects should be tried in Istanbul, and not in Saudi Arabia, but added that the final say should be left to Saudi Arabia.
Erdogan’s anticipated speech hence contradicted the Saudi accounts, which asserted that the journalist died accidentally in a “fistfight” in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
On 2 October, Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the Saudi regime, was reported missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi Arabia strongly denied killing Khashoggi and denounced such “lies,” asserting that the journalist left the consulate a few minutes after his arrival.
Days after continuous denial, Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor admitted that Khashoggi died in the consulate after “the discussions that took place between him and the persons who met him during his attendance in the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul led to a quarrel and a brawl with Khashoggi, resulting in his death.”
On Tuesday, the Turkish president laid out the first official version of the investigation into the murder of Khashoggi. He said that Turkey has strong evidence that Saudi officials planned Khashoggi’s murder days in advance.
He started by saying that a Saudi team visited the forest in Istanbul and Yalova, before Khashoggi’s disappearance on October 2, adding that investigations have found that the consulate security cameras were removed.
“A day before the murder, a number of forensic experts and intelligence specialists arrived in Istanbul,” he said, adding that a Saudi team of 15 entered the consulate on the day of the murder.
He described the incident as a “violent, savage murder”, explaining that 18 people arrested in Saudi Arabia in relation to the murder match those identified by Turkish intelligence.
However, Erdogan said that he had no doubt to question the integrity of the Saudi King. He raised the point that the “issue of diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention would be discussed regarding the case.”
Hours before Erdogan’s speech, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey did not share any information about the case with other countries, adding that Ankara is willing to cooperate with an international probe.
According to statement made by an insider source who spoke to Reuters on Sunday, in order to prove to the authorities in Riyadh that Khashoggi left the consulate safely, operative Mustafa Madani then dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes and left the diplomatic facility from the back door, and subsequently got rid of the journalist’s body by rolling it up in a rug and giving it to a local co-operator for disposal.