Khashoggi murder planned days ahead, says Turkey’s Erdogan

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The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was planned days in advance, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told MPs from his ruling party.

He said Turkey had strong evidence Khashoggi was killed in a premeditated and “savage” murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

He also called for the suspects to be tried in Istanbul.

He demanded Saudi Arabia provide answers about where Khashoggi’s body was, and who ordered the operation.

The Saudi kingdom has provided conflicting accounts of what happened to Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post contributor. After weeks of maintaining he was still alive, the authorities now say the 59-year-old was killed in a rogue operation.

Mr Erdogan’s address on Tuesday coincided with the start of an investment conference in Saudi Arabia that has been overshadowed by the Khashoggi case, with dozens of government and business leaders pulling out.

Many world leaders have condemned the murder of the prominent Saudi critic and demanded a full investigation.

US President Donald Trump says he is not satisfied with the Saudi explanation but he has also highlighted the kingdom’s importance as a US ally. CIA director Gina Haspel has been sent to Turkey to review the matter.

What did the Turkish president say happened?

President Erdogan said 15 Saudi nationals arrived in Istanbul in three teams, on separate flights, in the days and hours leading up to the murder.

A day before the killing, he said, some members from the group travelled to Belgrad forest, near the consulate – an area searched last week by Turkish police looking for the body.

He also described how the team had removed the hard drives from the consulate’s surveillance camera system prior to the arrival of Khashoggi, who was visiting to obtain documents for his forthcoming marriage.

A man who looked like Khashoggi, wearing his outfit, glasses and a fake beard, was among a group who left the consulate the same day as the killing, the president added.

On Monday, CNN broadcast images appearing to show that Saudi operative leaving the consulate.

President Erdogan confirmed 18 people had been arrested in Saudi Arabia over the case.

He told MPs from his ruling AK party the 18 should “be tried in Istanbul”, adding that “all those who played a role in the murder” would be punished.

He made no mention of any audio or video recordings reported by Turkish media in the days following the journalist’s disappearance.

What did he say about the Saudis?

Mr Erdogan called for an independent commission to be set up to look into the case, but said he was confident of King Salman’s full co-operation.

He did not mention Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely seen as the most powerful figure in the kingdom. Many believe he ordered the killing, although the Saudis deny this.

For a president not shy of confrontation, this could be another attempt to preserve the diplomatic relationship with Saudi Arabia, or was the result of pressure from Riyadh or Washington to hold back, says the BBC’s Mark Lowen in Istanbul.

The Turkish president had promised to reveal the “naked truth” about the killing, but his speech gave barely more detail than we knew, our correspondent says.

Where do the Saudis stand?

King Salman chaired a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, after which a statement said that Saudi Arabia would hold to account those responsible for the killing, whoever they may be,

State media also said the king and the crown prince had held a meeting in Riyadh with members of the Khashoggi family, including Khashoggi’s son, Salah bin Jamal.

Mr Erdogan also spoke to family members by phone on Tuesday, offering condolences and saying he would do all he could to solve the murder.

Saudi Arabia has given conflicting accounts up to now, initially saying Khashoggi had left the building alive, then later saying that he had been killed in a “fist-fight” inside the consulate.

On Sunday, the Saudi foreign minister acknowledged Khashoggi had been murdered, but said the leadership had not been aware of the “rogue operation”.

“The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News. “There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up.”

 

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