Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday urged Saudi Arabia to reveal who ordered the “savage murder” of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, and said the 18 Saudis suspected of carrying it out should be tried in Turkish courts.
Addressing lawmakers of his ruling party in Parliament, Erdogan said that all those responsible for the killing must be punished regardless of rank — from the person who ordered it to those who carried it out.
Though he called for an independent commission to be set up into the murder, he added that he was confident of the full cooperation of Saudi King Salman.
Erdogan said that the murder was “planned” days in advance according to a “roadmap” set up by a Saudi team sent to Istanbul for that purpose. He added that he still wanted answers on numerous issues including “who gave orders” to the team and where the corpse is.
He said the surveillance system at the Saudi consulate was deactivated on purpose ahead of the murder. He also confirmed that a body double of Khashoggi was used as a decoy after he was killed.
Erdogan’s speech came with skepticism mounting about Saudi Arabia’s account that Khashoggi died accidentally in its consulate in Istanbul.
On Monday sources told the Reuters news agency that one of the Saudi crown prince’s top aides had directed the killing of Khashoggi via a Skype call to the consulate in Istanbul, telling the team of operatives to “bring me the head of the dog.”
The now-sacked media adviser Saud al-Qahtani was part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s inner circle and was tasked with defending the royal family, and Prince Mohammed in particular, from attacks on social media.
Last year, Qahtani tweeted that he was absolutely loyal to the royal family and would not do anything without their permission.
A tough critic of the crown prince, Khashoggi, 59, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain a document for his upcoming marriage.
A few days after Khashoggi entered the consulate, a Turkish government source said police believed he was murdered by a team sent to Istanbul, and on October 17, a Turkish newspaper said he was tortured and decapitated inside the consulate.
According to the Reuters report, Turkish sources say Khashoggi was seized inside the consulate by a 15-man team that had arrived in the country just two hours earlier.
An individual described by the news agency as a “high-ranking Arab source with access to intelligence and links to members of Saudi Arabia’s royal court” said that Qahtani was then connected to the room in the consulate via video call and began to hurl insults at Khashoggi. The Saudi writer apparently responded to Qahtani with insults, at which point the royal aide told his team to kill the journalist.
“Bring me the head of the dog,” Qahtani instructed, a Turkish source told Reuters.
A high-ranking Arab source described the killing as a “bungled and botched operation,” and it is unclear whether Qahtani watched it.
Both Arab and Turkish intelligence sources told Reuters that Erdogan is in possession of an audio recording of the Skype call and is refusing to hand it over to the United States.
After more than two weeks of near silence, Saudi Arabia admitted on Saturday that Khashoggi was killed in the consular office, but claimed it happened during an altercation — an explanation rejected by friends and foes alike.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, a smooth former envoy to Washington, appeared on Fox News Sunday to blame a “rogue operation” by individuals who “exceeded their responsibilities” and then “tried to cover up for it.”
US President Donald Trump said Monday that he thought the killing was a “plot gone awry,” but that he is “not satisfied” with Riyadh’s explanation of the Washington Post contributor’s death.
Trump, who had said he found Riyadh’s initial explanations credible, told reporters at the White House: “I am not satisfied with what I have heard” since then, and expected to know more “very soon.”
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, meanwhile, met the crown prince behind closed doors in Riyadh for talks.
White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner said he had urged Prince Mohammed to be “fully transparent” stressing that “the world is watching.”
The case has shone a spotlight on the crown prince, who was credited with spearheading a reform drive but is now accused of having ordered Khashoggi’s murder.
As further details of the killing continued to seep out, CNN broadcast images showing a Saudi official playing a body double for Khashoggi, wearing the journalist’s clothes, exiting the consulate.
An Erdogan adviser, Yasin Aktay, wrote in the Yeni Safak daily that Riyadh’s version of events “feels like our intelligence is being mocked.”