Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says order to kill dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was issued from highest levels of Saudi government excluding King Salman from the blame.
In a Friday op-ed for The Washington Post, the Turkish president said there are still many “questions” for Saudi Arabia to answer regarding the killing of Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
“Where is Khashoggi’s body? Who is the “local collaborator” to whom Saudi officials claimed to have handed over Khashoggi’s remains? Who gave the order to kill this kind soul? Unfortunately, the Saudi authorities have refused to answer those questions,” he said.
“We know that the perpetrators are among the 18 suspects detained in Saudi Arabia. We also know that those individuals came to carry out their orders: Kill Khashoggi and leave. Finally, we know that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government,” Erdogan noted.
He said Ankara has friendly relations with Riyadh, and he does not believe for a second that King Salman ordered the hit on Khashoggi. “Therefore, I have no reason to believe that his murder reflected Saudi Arabia’s official policy.”
However, he said, longstanding friendship with Riyadh doesn’t mean Ankara will turn a blind eye to the premeditated murder that unfolded in front of its very eyes.
He also described the murder as an inexplicable incident and a clear violation and a blatant abuse of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and said failure to punish the perpetrators would set a very dangerous precedent.
“This is another reason we were shocked and saddened by the efforts of certain Saudi officials to cover up Khashoggi’s premeditated murder rather than serve the cause of justice,” he said.
“As responsible members of the international community, we must reveal the identities of the puppet-masters behind Khashoggi’s killing and discover those in whom Saudi officials — still trying to cover up the murder — have placed their trust,” Erdogan noted.
Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi rulers, was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. While Saudi authorities have admitted that the journalist’s murder was premeditated, the body has yet to be found.
A top Turkish official, presidential adviser Yasin Aktay, said Friday he believes Khashoggi’s body was dissolved in acid after being cut up.
The “only logical conclusion” was that those who had killed the Saudi journalist in Istanbul had destroyed his body “to leave no trace behind”, he said.
“The reason they dismembered Khashoggi’s body was to dissolve his remains more easily”, Aktay told the Hurriyet Daily newspaper.
“Now we see that they did not only dismember his body but also vaporized it.”
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is widely believed to be the one who ordered the killing – as implicitly suggested by Erdogan in his Friday op-ed – has reportedly told the US he considered Khashoggi to be a dangerous Islamist.
During phone calls with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser John Bolton, Prince Mohammed said Khashoggi had been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Islamist organization, the Washington Post reports.
Saudi Arabia has denied the comments were made or that its royal family was involved in the killing, and says it is “determined to find out all the facts”.
Istanbul’s prosecutor confirmed on Wednesday that the writer had been strangled.