Erdogan hinted that Saudi Arabia is turning its Khashoggi probe into a cover-up, and it looks like a warning shot at the crown prince

Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesPeople hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organised by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to fire a warning shot at Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday.
  • Speaking about the investigation into Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, Erdogan said on Tuesday: “There is no point in procrastinating or trying to save some people from under this.”
  • Erdogan didn’t name anyone, but this likely meant Crown Prince Mohammed.
  • Saudi officials have been focused on distancing its leadership from Khashoggi’s death and combatting claims that the crown prince was involved in the operation.

The Turkish president hinted that the investigation into journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death was trying to “protect certain people,” a possible warning shot to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the Saudi public prosecutor on Tuesday to “reveal” the people responsible for Khashoggi’s killing, which took place in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

“Our prosecutor asked who sent the group that came here and said that this needed to be looked at,” Erdogan said.

“Saudi officials need to reveal the local cooperators. Let us know whoever this person is and we will find them.

“We cannot leave this issue unsolved, we need to solve it now. There is no point in procrastinating or trying to save some people from under this.”

Though Erdogan didn’t say who “some people| might be, it is likely that he meant Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi officials have been focused on distancing its leadership from Khashoggi’s death and combatting claims that Crown Prince Mohammed was involved in the operation. Their claims have been doubted by experts, however, and Saudi Arabia has shifted its version of events multiple times.

At the same time, Turkish officials have been challenging the Saudi account of Khashoggi’s killing for weeks through intelligence leaks and bold public statements.

Last week, Turkish and Saudi leaders touted their countries’ relationships, suggesting that Erdogan did not suspect the Saudi monarchy personally, but the cordial tone has not persisted.

Khashoggi mbsAssociated Press/Virginia Mayo; Nicolas Asfouri – Pool/GettyA composite image of Khashoggi and Crown Prince Mohammed.

Search for the “local cooperator”

Erdogan on Tuesday also renewed calls to Riyadh to reveal the identity of a local Turkish cooperator whom Saudis claim was given Khashoggi’s body.

He also pressed the Saudis to allow Turkey to prosecute the suspects involved in the killing. Saudi Arabia has said it wants to prosecute them itself.

Saudi prosecutors anonymously told Reuters and the Associated Press last week that Khashoggi’s killers rolled up the journalist’s body after killing him in a sort of fabric, and handed it over to an unnamed collaborator in Istanbul for disposal.

“Saudi officials need to reveal the local cooperators. Let us know whoever this person is and we will find them,” he told reporters at Turkey’s parliament, according to Reuters.

Erdogan also repeated his demand that the 18 suspects Saudi Arabia arrested over Khashoggi’s killing – which include the 15 agents who flew to Istanbul – should be prosecuted in Turkey.

He said on Tuesday: “Yesterday, our prosecutor told the Saudi prosecutor that the prosecution could be carried out in Turkey since the location of the crime is Istanbul.”

Erdogan the strongman

Erdogan’s latest comments squared with a strongman rhetoric he routinely employs in his speeches.

He has previously emphasised that Khashoggi’s killing took place in Turkey – albeit on diplomatic Saudi property – and said it was therefore up to his country to uncover the truth.

Erdogan has for years cracked down on his country’s military officials, intelligence agents, and journalists, in the name of national security. This grew more intense after members of the Turkish armed forces attempted to launch a coup against him in July 2016.

Lisel Hintz, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, told Business Insider last week that Erdogan likely “took this as a personal affront that Saudi Arabia would carry out this action on his soil.”

“Turkey doesn’t want to take the blame for allowing this to take place on its territory,” she added.

The top Saudi public prosecutor visited Istanbul this week to discuss his country’s investigation into the killing with his counterpart in the city.

Saudi Attorney General Saud al-Mujeb met Irfan Fidan, Istanbul’s chief public prosecutor, twice in two days and went inside the consulate – the site of the killing – for 90 minutes on Tuesday, Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency reported. Neither side has made a public statement about the visit.

One potential piece of evidence that Turkish officials have against Saudi Arabia is an audio recording of Khashoggi’s last moments. It’s not clear whether the Saudi prosecutors have heard this.

CIA Director Gina Haspel reportedly heard the tape during a visit to Turkey last week. She briefed President Donald Trump on her visit to Turkey, but it is not clear whether she addressed the audio, the BBC reported.

Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, criticised Trump on his reaction to Khashoggi’s killing. Khashoggi was a green card holder and wrote columns for The Washington Post.

She told an audience in London, according to Reuters: “I am disappointed by the actions of the leadership in many countries, particularly in the US.

“President Trump should help reveal the truth and ensure justice be served. He should not pave the way for a cover-up of my fiancé’s murder. Let’s not let money taint our conscience and compromise our values.”

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