- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan knocked down the Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death in a speech on Tuesday.
- “We have strong evidence in our hands that shows the murder wasn’t accidental but was instead the outcome of a planned operation,” he said.
- Saudi Arabia has denied that its leadership was involved in the killing, and has tried to blame rogue agents who made a “terrible mistake” for the death.
- While Erdogan did not mention Saudi Arabia’s leadership directly, he said he was not satisfied with Riyadh’s explanation.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan contradicted Saudi Arabia’s claim that the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a rogue operation, and said instead that Khashoggi was the victim of a “savage” and “planned” murder.
Erdogan rejected Saudi Arabia’s claim that the journalist was killed accidentally, in an address to lawmakers of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Tuesday in Ankara.
“We have strong evidence in our hands that shows the murder wasn’t accidental but was instead the outcome of a planned operation,” he said.
“The information obtained so far and the evidence found shows that Khashoggi was murdered in a ferocious manner.”
Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was often critical of his government, went missing October 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Erdogan said that a “roadmap” to Khashoggi’s murder began when he was called to the consulate to collect marriage paperwork.
Erdogan said that Turkish investigators have established that Khashoggi’s killing was planned several days in advance, and that a team of 15 people had begun arriving in Istanbul the day before Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Three of the men scouted a forest a city 55 miles away, where police would later look for Khashoggi’s body. The body has not yet been found.
He said that the “highest-ranked” of those responsible should be brought to justice. “Pinning such a case on some security and intelligence members will not satisfy us or the international community,” he said.
“From the person who gave the order, to the person who carried it out, they must all be brought to account.”
He did not identify anybody he had in mind, though his reference to high-ranked people suggests he believes the responsibility spreads beyond the limited number of officials who were directly involved.
Erdogan did not mention King Salman of Saudi Arabia, or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite earlier leaks from Turkish intelligence officials suggesting that the prince was aware of the killing, and could even have ordered it. He also called for the 18 people arrested in Saudi Arabia over the death to be put on trial in Turkey.
Saudi Arabia’s account
While the account given by Saudi Arabia for the journalist’s death has regularly changed, the kingdom has consistently denied that the government was involved and most recently claimed that the death was a “terrible mistake” by rogue agents.
The Saudi government initially claimed Khashoggi safely departed the consulate, and denied involvement in his disappearance for 17 days.
On Friday, October 19, the government officially acknowledged Khashoggi’s death and said that he had died in a fistfight in the consulate.
And on Sunday, October 21, the Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News described the death as a “murder” for the first time, but said that it was a “tremendous mistake” done by people who were not operating under the government’s orders.
He said that Crown Prince Mohammed was “not aware” of Khashoggi’s death until later.
“We are determined to uncover every stone. We are determined to find out all the facts. And we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder,” Jubeir said.
The narrative surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance has been shaped largely by leaks from Turkish officials that challenge Saudi Arabia’s accounts, and Erdogan has issued increasingly bold statements implicating the Saudi leadership in Khashoggi’s death.
Erdogan did not make mention of many of the grisly claims made in these leaks, or of the recording of Khashoggi’s death that Turkey claims to hold.