Where is Khashoggi's body, Erdogan asks Saudis

ISTANBUL • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Saudi Arabia to disclose who ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, as well as the location of his body, heightening international pressure on the kingdom to come clean on the case.

Mr Erdogan said yesterday that Turkey had more information than it had shared so far about the killing of Mr Khashoggi, a prominent US-based critic of powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that has pitched the world's top oil exporter and pivotal Middle East strategic partner of the West into a serious crisis.

Riyadh, Mr Erdogan added, also must reveal the identity of the "local cooperator" whom Saudi officials earlier said had taken charge of Mr Khashoggi's body from Saudi agents after his killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2.

Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor on Thursday said the killing of Mr Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was premeditated, reversing a previous official statement that it had happened accidentally during a tussle in the consulate.

The kingdom's shifting explanations of what happened to Mr Khashoggi when he entered the consulate to get papers for his marriage have stirred scepticism and calls for Saudi transparency to determine who was ultimately responsible for the killing.

"Who gave this order?" Mr Erdogan said in a speech to members of his AK Party in Ankara. "Who gave the order for 15 people to come to Turkey?" he said, referring to a 15-man Saudi security team Turkey said flew into Istanbul hours before the killing.

Saudi officials initially denied having anything to do with Mr Khashoggi's disappearance after he entered the consulate, before announcing that an internal inquiry suggested he was killed by mistake in a botched operation to return him to the kingdom.

Saudi officials initially denied having anything to do with Mr Khashoggi's disappearance after he entered the consulate, before announcing that an internal inquiry suggested he was killed by mistake in a botched operation to return him to the kingdom.

Riyadh said 18 people have been arrested and five senior government officials have been sacked as part of the investigation. Prince Mohammed, Riyadh's de facto ruler who casts himself as a reformer, has said the killers will be brought to justice.

Mr Erdogan said he had spoken with Prince Mohammed. "I said, 'You know how to make people talk. Whatever happened between these 18 people, this dodgy business is among them. If you are determined to lift suspicion, then the key point of our cooperation is these 18 people'."

 
 
 

Mr Erdogan also said Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor was due in Istanbul tomorrow to meet its regional chief prosecutor.

Meanwhile, the eldest son of Mr Khashoggi arrived in Washington with his family from Saudi Arabia on Thursday, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed for his return. Mr Salah Khashoggi holds dual US-Saudi citizenship and had thus far been under a travel ban.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2018, with the headline 'Where is Khashoggi's body, Erdogan asks Saudis'. Print Edition | Subscribe