Jamal Khashoggi died as a result of a brutal premeditated murder, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, in a highly anticipated speech in which he soundly rejected Saudi Arabia’s claim that the journalist was killed accidentally.
Erdogan questioned whether Riyadh was able to carry out an independent investigation in to the death of the Washington Post journalist, and he demanded that the 18 suspects arrested by authorities in Saudi Arabia be extradited to Turkey to stand trial in Istanbul.
It was the first time that any official in Turkey has publicly outlined the Turkish contention that Khashoggi was killed at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul by a hit squad sent from Riyadh. While Erdogan did not offer any bombshell revelations, his speech amounted to a comprehensive rejection of Saudi Arabia’s case that Khashoggi died by accident as a result of a brawl.
“The information obtained so far and the evidence found shows that Khashoggi was murdered in a ferocious manner,” Erdogan told lawmakers in the Turkish capital, Ankara.
Among the new details revealed by Erdogan was an allegation that, on the day before Khashoggi was killed, a team of consular staff carried out a reconnaissance mission in a forest on the outskirts of Istanbul, and at Yalova, a city about a 55-mile (90-kilometer) drive south. Erdogan did not say why the locations were scouted, but he noted later that Khashoggi’s body has yet to be found.
Erdogan also alleged that, hours before Khashoggi arrived for an appointment at the Istanbul consulate on October 2 to obtain paperwork to marry his fiancee, security cameras in the building were disconnected.
“We have significant signs that this was not something which happened instantaneously, but was planned,” Erdogan said.
Saudi Arabia has insisted that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, knew nothing of the operation to target Khashoggi. But Erdogan indicated that Turkey would not accept any attempt to pin the blame for the killing on rogue elements of the Saudi intelligence and security services. The world would only be satisfied “when everyone who is responsible, from the person who gave the order to those who executed it, is called to answer,” he said.
In the runup to the speech, Erdogan had promised the “naked truth.” In reality, he offered few details beyond those already revealed by Turkish officials speaking privately. He made no reference to a previously reported audio recording from inside the consulate, said to have captured Khashoggi’s alleged torture and killing, nor did he mention bin Salman by name.
The omissions raise questions over whether Erdogan may have withheld the most damaging allegations related to the case, in an effort to hold further sway over bin Salman and US President Donald Trump.
CIA Director Gina Haspel, in Turkey on a mission to learn more about the evidence in Turkey’s possession, will brief Trump on her return to Washington, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday.
A slow drip of revelations from Turkey has forced Saudi Arabia to shift from its initial firm denials that any harm had come to Khashoggi. On Friday the Saudi government admitted for the first time that Khashoggi had died at its diplomatic compound in Istanbul, claiming he was killed when a discussion turned into a fistfight. Then, a source contended that he had died in a chokehold. On Sunday, the Saudi foreign minister conceded that Khashoggi had been murdered.
The crisis has overshadowed Saudi Arabia’s flagship investment conference, which began in Riyadh as Erdogan spoke in Ankara. Dozens of top business leaders from around the world have pulled out of the Crown Prince’s showcase event, known as “Davos in the desert,” as questions mount over the Saudi government’s role in Khashoggi’s death.
Speaking to CNN Business at the conference, the head of Saudi oil company Aramco, Amin Nasser, said “everyone here feels sorry” about Khashoggi’s death, but the kingdom is still pushing ahead with its investment plans.
“We feel sorry for his family and what happened, but at the end of day, you know, we need to move beyond that,” Nasser said.
The Crown Prince and his father King Salman were pictured shaking hands with Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist’s eldest son, and Sahl bin Ahmad Khashoggi, another relative, at Al Yamama Palace in Riyadh on Tuesday as Saudi state television flashed urgent banners from the Council of Ministers that the kingdom would hold those “who failed in their duties” to account.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday that evidence uncovered during the investigation has yet to be shared with any country, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu News, but that Turkey was “ready to cooperate in a possible probe into Khashoggi case at UN, international courts.”