Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, above, will reveal full details of the investigation into Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s “murder” at his AK Party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, local media reports say.
Khashoggi’s case is extraordinary and Ankara wants justice, Erdogan said on Sunday.
The announcement came a day after Riyadh’s belated admission of Khashoggi’s “death” in a “fist fight” at their consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2.
A senior Saudi official later came out with a new narrative of how the 15-member “negotiation team” from Riyadh overstepped the orders by turning violent and handed Khashoggi’s body over to a “local co-operator” for disposal.
Many nations and groupings are sceptical about Riyadh’s narrative and the unidentified official’s long explanation in an interview to Reuters.
In a joint statement, Britain, France and Germany have told Saudi Arabia to come clean on Khashoggi. Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany can no longer sell arms to Saudi Arabia.
For 17 days, Riyadh has been denying any role in Khashoggi’s disappearance since Oct 2 and its consulate in Istanbul kept insisting that he left the consulate after collecting some papers ahead of his marriage.
Turkish media say investigators have got audio and video tapes that prove the 59-year-old journalist was interrogated, killed and cut up by the 15-member “assassination squad” who came in two jets from Riyadh on Oct 2 and left several hours later.
Ankara does not agree with Riyadh’s view that the Saudi team’s mission went horribly wrong by a violent act committed by two to three members. It believes the crime was committed with the knowledge of top Saudi officials.
An unidentified Saudi official told Reuters that the 15-member team was sent to Istanbul to persuade dissident Khashoggi to return to Riyadh instead of being used as a tool by the kingdom’s foes.
The team was to take him to a safe house outside Istanbul and keep him there for some days and free him if he still refused to return to Saudi Arabia. According to standing orders, those involved in such missions are empowered to act without consulting Riyadh at every step, the official said.
When Khashoggi was taken to consul general’s office, an operative named Maher Mutreb said he should be prepared to return to Saudi Arabia. Taking it as kidnap threat, Khashoggi warned Mutreb that someone waiting for him outside the consulate would alert Turkey’s top authorities if he failed to meet her within an hour.
Mutreb bluntly told him they were going to drug and kidnap him. On hearing this, Khashoggi shouted at them and died when the team placed him in a chokehold and covered his mouth.
The team then rolled up Khashoggi’s body in a rug, transported it in a consular vehicle and handed it over to a “local co-operator” for disposal, the official said.
Saudi’s forensic head Salah Tubaigy, who was among the team, tried to remove the last traces of evidence of the crime. But Turkish investigators got proof of Khashoggi’s murder from the ground floor of the consul general’s residence during their searches on Oct 17 and Oct 18.
Based on the evidence, they expanded their search to Belgrad Forest outside Istanbul and a rural location near the city of Yalova.
In the meantime, a New York Times report said Saudi Arabia is using an army of Twitter trolls to silence its critics acting on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s orders.