Erdogan: Khashoggi’s Murder Was Orchestrated By Saudis

Erodgan says Saudi's planned Khashoggi’s murder

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims Khashoggi’s ‘savage’ murder was planned by Saudi authorities who disabled CCTV at the Istanbul consulate before killing the journalist and giving his body to a local fixer.

Erdogan assured Khashoggi’s family that Turkey would do ‘everything’ to solve the case as he offered his condolences during a telephone call to Khashoggi’s son Abdullah.

Dailymail.co.uk reports: According to a Sky News report, parts of the writer’s body were discovered in the garden of the house, but it is not clear how much of his remains were found.

A separate report in Turkey claimed that the body parts were found in a well at the property. But in a speech earlier today, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested a corpse had not yet been discovered and called on Saudi Arabia to reveal its location.

If proved true, questions will be raised over why it has taken so long to discover any of Khashoggi’s remains.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said: ‘We are aware of the reports, they are deeply disturbing. Our thoughts are with the family of Jamal Khashoggi for whom they must be particularly distressing.

The location of Mr Khashoggi’s body is just one of the questions we need answers to and as such we await the full results of the Turkish investigation.’

Saudi Arabia’s consul general Mohammed al-Otaibi fled Istanbul last week before his home was searched by Turkish police. He was then placed under investigation and relieved of his position, the kingdom said in a statement. Earlier today, Erdogan said he had told King Salman that the consul was ‘incompetent’.

In an explosive speech today, Erdogan said there were strong signs a Saudi team plotted to kill the dissident journalist days before his death on October 2.

The 64-year-old described it as a ‘political murder’ but stopped short of directly blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the effective ruler of the kingdom – instead demanding to know ‘who gave the orders’ for the operation.

In response, Saudi King Salman said at a cabinet meeting this afternoon that those responsible for Khashoggi’s slaying would be held ‘accountable’.

Officials including ‘intelligence, security and forensic personnel’ were seen entering the building where Khashoggi disappeared, Erdogan said, while some were seen exploring a nearby forest beforehand.

The revelation will fuel speculation the team was scouting an area where they could potentially ditch a body.

As the fallout from the killing continued today,

  • Turkish media reported that intelligence officers intercepted no fewer than seven phone calls from a member of the hit squad to the private office of the Saudi Crown Prince on the day Khashoggi went missing
  • Separate reports claimed Khashoggi’s fingers were cut off and sent back to Saudi Arabia as ‘proof’ of a successful mission
  • Saudi and Turkish intelligence sources told Reuters a royal aide named Saud Al-Qahtani, who was sacked over the killing, directed the murder at the consulate by giving orders over Skype, telling the hit squad ‘bring me the head of the dog’
  • A Future Investment Initiative conference, dubbed ‘Davos in the Desert’, opened in Riyadh with Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih saying ‘these are difficult days’ for Saudi Arabia and calling the country a nation ‘in crisis’.
  • Despite global outrage over Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia is expected to sign deals worth more than $50 billion on the opening day alone
  • A friend of Khashoggi claims he was working on exposing Saudi Arabia’s use of social media ‘troll farms’

In his speech, Erdogan called for 18 people arrested in Saudi Arabia to be tried in Istanbul, but said blaming some intelligence members for the killing will not satisfy Turkey ‘or the international community’.

Speaking to members of his AK Party in parliament, he also questioned why a corpse had yet to be found and called on Saudi Arabia to reveal the identity of a ‘local cooperator’ who purportedly took the body.

The majority of his claims have already been leaked, but for Erdogan to make the revelations in a speech to parliament raises the stakes in the region.

Erdogan’s speech was previously pitched as revealing the ‘naked truth’ about Khashoggi’s slaying. Instead it served merely to put a named source to information already circulated by anonymous officials.

One senior western diplomat in Turkey told Bloomberg the crisis was a ‘gift from God’ for Erdogan as he tries to capitalise on it to spark a change in the balance of power in Saudi Arabia and increase his own influence across the Middle East.

Just hours earlier, a major Saudi investment forum opened under the heavy shadow of the murder after key delegates pulled out.

The murder of the Washington Post contributor has damaged the international reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has spearheaded a reform drive in the kingdom.

Erdogan said three operatives arrived in Istanbul the day before Khashoggi’s killing on an apparent reconnaissance mission. The next day 15 people came to the consulate.

‘Why did these 15 people meet in Istanbul on the day of the murder? We are seeking answers to this. Who are these people receiving orders from?’ Erdogan said.

‘My demand is that 18 people be tried in Istanbul,’ Erdogan said in his speech, referring to 18 people including security officials who have already been detained by Riyadh.

He added that ‘all those who played a role in the murder’ had to face punishment.

Erdogan said that the murder was ‘planned’ days in advance according to a ‘roadmap’ set up by a Saudi team who were sent to Istanbul for the purpose. The surveillance system at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was deactivated on purpose, he said.

‘First they (the Saudis implicated) removed the hard disc from the camera system,’ Erdogan said. ‘This is a political murder,’ he added.

But Erdogan added he still wanted answers on numerous issues including ‘who gave orders’ to the team and where the corpse is.

Erdogan did not mention Prince Mohammed by name in the speech but said he was confident of the full cooperation of his father Saudi King Salman in the probe.

‘To blame such an incident on a handful of security and intelligence members would not satisfy us or the international community,’ Erdogan said.

‘Saudi Arabia has taken an important step by admitting the murder. As of now we expect of them to openly bring to light those responsible – from the highest ranked to the lowest – and to bring them to justice,’ the Turkish president said.

‘All evidence gathered shows that Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a savage murder. To cover up such a savagery would hurt the human conscience,’ he said.

He said no Saudi linked to the murder should enjoy diplomatic immunity as set out by the Vienna Convention.

‘The Vienna Convention and other international regulations don’t allow for a savage murder to be protected from investigation by diplomatic immunity.’

This morning, one of Erdogan’s left-wing rivals, Patriotic Party leader Dogu Perincek, said that some of Khashoggi’s remains had been recovered.

Perincek told Turkish TV that parts of the body of the murdered Saudi journalist have been found in a well in the grounds of the Saudi consul general’s home. However, he did not expand on the claims, and authorities have not commented on his statement, news website Haberler reported.

Erdogan today said a Saudi team entered the consulate the day of the killing, and that three men from the team went on an exploration trip to Belgrad forest in Istanbul and Yalova, a 55 mile drive south of Istanbul.

Turkish news website Haberturk now reports one of the vehicles used by the hit squad had been driven to and from Yalova district several times and that there is a possibility one of the members of the ‘hit squad’ has a summer house there.

The website pictured a three-floor red building which they claim to be the summer house in question, which has been raided by police.

Turkish officials believe the Saudis may have dumped his remains in Belgrad Forest and at a rural location near Yalova.

After initially denying any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate, the kingdom gave a new story on Saturday, saying he died in a ‘fistfight.’

Saudi Arabia said 18 Saudis were arrested and that several top intelligence officials were fired over the killing, but critics alleged that the punishment was designed to absolve the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s heir-apparent, of any responsibility.

Erdogan earlier promised the case ‘will be revealed in all its nakedness’ in a speech to ruling party members.

Turkey’s foreign minister, meanwhile, said his country would cooperate with international bodies if they were to launch an independent probe into the Khashoggi’s killing.

In an interview with state-run Anadolu Agency, Mevlut Cavusoglu also said Turkey has not shared evidence concerning his death at the Saudi consulate with any country but added that there may have been ‘an exchange of views between intelligence organisations.’

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that he is not satisfied with the explanations he’s heard about the killing of Khashoggi and is awaiting reports from U.S. personnel returning from the region.

‘We’re going to get to the bottom of it. We have people over in Saudi Arabia now. We have top intelligence people in Turkey. They’re coming back either tonight or tomorrow,’ Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for a political rally in Texas.

A high-profile economic forum in Saudi Arabia began Tuesday in Riyadh, the kingdom’s first major event on the world stage since Khashoggi’s killing.

The Future Investment Initiative forum, the brainchild of Prince Mohammed, is aimed at drawing more foreign investment into the kingdom and helping create desperately needed jobs for its youthful population.

Prince Mohammed was not at the forum when it started.

On Monday, leaked surveillance video showed a man strolling out of the diplomatic post hours after Khashoggi disappeared into the consulate, apparently wearing the columnist’s clothes as part of a macabre deception to sow confusion over his fate.

The new video broadcast by CNN, as well as a pro-government Turkish newspaper’s report that a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage made four calls to the royal’s office from the consulate around the same time, put more pressure on the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Turkish crime-scene investigators swarmed a garage Monday night in Istanbul where a Saudi consular vehicle had been parked.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, meanwhile, said Tuesday the investigation into the killing of Khashoggi would produce the truth about what happened and that his country was committed to ensuring ‘that the investigation is thorough and complete and that the truth is revealed and that those responsible will be held to account.’

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, in Indonesia, also pledged that mechanisms will be put in place so that ‘something like this can never happen again.’

The murder of the Washington Post contributor has damaged the international reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has spearheaded a reform drive in the kingdom.

He who was credited with key changes  including giving women the right to drive but is now accused of having ordered Khashoggi’s murder – a claim Riyadh denies.

Reports in pro-government Turkish media have suggested he was slowly strangled in an operation by a 15 person assassination team. But these claims have yet to be confirmed on the record and Khashoggi’s remains have also not been found.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin would not export arms to Riyadh ‘in the current situation,’ despite Germany’s approval last month of 416 million euros’ ($480 million) worth of arms exports in 2018.

Despite also pulling out of the Davos-style summit, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met the crown prince behind closed doors for bilateral talks in Riyadh today. CIA Director Gina Haspel, meanwhile, headed for Turkey, although details of her trip were not immediately clear.

White House advisor and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, believed to have close ties with the crown prince, said he had urged him to be ‘fully transparent’, stressing that ‘the world is watching’.

Speaking in Jakarta, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir vowed ‘a thorough and complete investigation’. He said procedures would be put in place to ‘ensure that something like this can never happen again.’

Omer Celik, spokesman of Erdogan’s ruling party, said the killing ‘was planned in an extremely savage manner,’ and that ‘there has been a lot of effort to whitewash this’.

Some of the consulate employees who gave testimony to Turkish prosecutors said they had not been given holiday on the day that Khashoggi was murdered, despite reports in local media, and they finished work at 3.30pm.

The employees were also quoted as saying that they did not ‘see or hear’ any sounds related to a fight despite Riyadh’s claims that Khashoggi died during a ‘brawl’.

Erdogan has so far stopped short of directly pointing the finger at Riyadh. Analysts say he preferred to authorise the leak of incriminating information to pro-government media to put pressure on the kingdom.

He has twice held telephone talks with King Salman on the crisis, interpreted by some as a bid to sideline the ageing Saudi monarch’s son Prince Mohammed.