Istanbul: Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and his body was dismembered and destroyed as part of a premeditated plan, Turkey’s chief prosecutor said Wednesday, making details of the murder public for the first time.
The revelations came only an hour after Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor left Istanbul, and his Turkish counterpart said he was “obliged” to release the information after their talks produced “no concrete results”. Gruesome reports in the Turkish media had previously alleged that Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Washington Post contributor who had criticised the powerful Saudi crown prince, was killed and cut into pieces by a team sent from Riyadh to silence him. His body has not been found. “In accordance with plans made in advance, the victim, Jamal Khashoggi, was strangled to death immediately after entering the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 for marriage formalities,” said a statement from the office of Istanbul chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan.
“The victim’s body was dismembered and destroyed following his death by suffocation — again, in line with advance plans,” it added. Saudi Arabia sent the head of its investigation to Istanbul this week, seeking to draw a line under a crisis that has brought near unprecedented scrutiny on the oil-rich Gulf nation. Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb arrived in Istanbul on Sunday, met with Fidan twice, visited the consulate and spoke with Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency. He then flew out of Istanbul on Wednesday afternoon without making a public statement.
“Despite our well-intentioned efforts to reveal the truth, no concrete results have come out of those meetings,” the Turkish prosecutor’s office said. It added that the Saudi prosector’s office invited Fidan and his delegation to Riyadh “along with the evidence they have obtained”. A senior Turkish official earlier said that Saudi officials seemed “primarily interested in finding out what evidence Turkey had against the perpetrators”. “We did not get the impression that they were keen on genuinely cooperating with the investigation,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
After initially insisting Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, then saying he died in a brawl during an interview gone wrong, the Saudi regime has admitted he was killed by a “rogue operation” and arrested 18 people. But a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, Omer Celik, said on Wednesday that the murder could not have been carried out without instructions from “high-level” officials in Riyadh. “Who gave the command?” Celik asked at a press conference, adding he believed it was “out of the question” that Saudi authorities had not learned where the body was.
Erdogan has repeatedly requested the suspects be extradited to Turkey for trial — which Riyadh has refused to do — as well as reveal the location of Khashoggi’s body and who ordered the hit. Abdulkadir Selvi, a well-connected pro-government columnist for Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, on Wednesday accused the Saudi prosecutor of “working to save the crown prince by covering up the investigation rather than shed light on the murder”. The affair has tarnished the image of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who has positioned himself as a Saudi reformer. He has denounced the murder as “repulsive” and strongly denied any involvement.
The case has also sorely strained relations between the ultra-conservative kingdom and the West. France said Wednesday that “not enough” was being done to find those responsible for the murder of the Saudi journalist, who was an insider in royal circles before going into self-imposed exile in the United States last year. In an editorial published Tuesday, the Washington Post accused the administration of US President Donald Trump of “playing along” and “pretending to believe that the Saudis can conduct a credible probe — even though a chief suspect is the kingdom’s own autocratic ruler”.
The editorial also urged the US Congress to impose sanctions on those responsible. On Wednesday Switzerland said it would halt deliveries of spare weapons parts to Saudi Arabia over the murder. While Trump has called the case “one of the worst cover-ups in history”, he warned against halting a Saudi arms deal, saying it would harm US jobs.
However, relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, long-time allies, have cooled. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said the murder “violates the norms of international law. That much is very, very clear”. And on Tuesday, Washington called for a ceasefire and peace talks in Yemen, where the US has faced fierce international criticism for supporting a Saudi-led coalition. Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said the US had been watching the conflict, in which nearly 10,000 people have been killed, “for long enough”.
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