Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Picture: REUTERS
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Picture: REUTERS

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called for Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor, who was visiting the consulate in Istanbul where Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, to investigate who ordered the hit on the journalist.

Khashoggi’s death has brought near unprecedented international scrutiny on Saudi Arabia and Erdogan has pressed Riyadh to reveal the truth, including the location of the Washington Post contributor’s missing body.

The Turkish president says a 15-person team travelled from Riyadh to kill Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, after he entered the Saudi consulate on October 2.

“Who sent these 15 people? As Saudi public prosecutor, you have to ask that question, so you can reveal it,” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara on Tuesday, shortly after the head of the Saudi investigation, attorney-general Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb, entered the diplomatic compound.

“Now we have to solve this case. No need to prevaricate, it makes no sense to try to save certain people,” Erdogan said.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to draw a line under the crisis after offering a series of differing narratives on the disappearance of the journalist, who was an insider in Saudi royal circles before going into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017.

Mojeb travelled to Istanbul this week after being the first Saudi official to acknowledge the killing was “premeditated”, based on the results of Turkey’s investigation. He met Istanbul chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan on Monday and asked to be given the full findings of the Turkish investigation, including all images and audio recordings, Turkish broadcaster TRT reported.

The Turkish investigators rejected the request, TRT said, instead calling on the Saudi prosecutor to reveal information about the location of Khashoggi’s body. They also repeated Erdogan’s call for the 18 suspects detained by Saudi Arabia over the murder to be sent to Turkey for trial, according to TRT. Riyadh has refused the request.

Mojeb met with Fidan again on Tuesday before entering the consulate without making a statement.

Khashoggi, 59, had entered the diplomatic compound to obtain paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz. On Monday, Cengiz hit out at Donald Trump’s response to his murder, saying the US president must not let Riyadh cover up the killing. “I am extremely disappointed by the stance of the leadership of many countries, particularly in the US,” Hatice Cengiz told a memorial event in London late on Monday.

“President Trump should help reveal the truth and ensure justice be served. He should not allow my fiance’s murder to be covered up.”

She said she believed the Saudi regime knew where Khashoggi’s body was and called for the “evil criminals and their cowardly political masters” to be held to account.

Trump has called the case “one of the worst cover-ups in history”, but warned against halting a Saudi arms deal to increase the pressure, saying it would harm US jobs.

Riyadh initially insisted that Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, but as pressure grew, Saudi state media changed the story and said Khashoggi died when an argument descended into a brawl. The Saudi leadership has since blamed a “rogue operation”.

After Khashoggi was killed, his body was reportedly given to “local co-conspirators”, and Erdogan urged Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir to identify them. “Again either the Saudi foreign minister or the 18 suspects must explain who the local co-conspirators are,” Erdogan said.

“Let’s know who this co-conspirator is, we can shed further light.”

Beyond the detention of the 18 suspects, five Saudi intelligence chiefs have been sacked, including two who were part of Prince Mohammad’s inner circle. The affair has tarnished the image the crown prince, the de facto leader of the oil-rich Gulf nation, who has positioned himself as a Saudi reformer. He has denounced the murder as “repulsive” and strongly denied any involvement.

AFP

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