Erdogan demands punishment for all behind ‘planned Khashoggi murder’

Ankara, Turkey | AFP | Tuesday 10/23/2018 - 20:54 UTC+5 | 819 words


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said that the “savage murder” of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was meticulously planned, demanding that all those linked to the killing face punishment.

Erdogan had promised that his speech in Ankara would give the “naked truth” about the killing and he gave a host of new details. But he still acknowledged Turkey wanted answers to key questions, including who gave the orders.

His revelations of careful planning contradicted Saudi insistences of an operation gone wrong. Vice President Mike Pence vowed that the United States would “demand answers” from Riyadh.

The murder of the Washington Post contributor has severely dented the international reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has spearheaded a reform drive in the kingdom. The killing overshadowed a major investment forum in Riyadh that also opened on Tuesday.

Erdogan outlined the steps taken by what he said was a 15 person team who came from Riyadh planning to kill Khashoggi, including carrying out reconnaissance outside Istanbul and then deactivating security cameras at the consulate.

He said that 18 suspects already detained by Saudi Arabia should be extradited to Istanbul to face trial over the killing and called for an investigation into those who have “even the slightest link” to the “savage murder”.

– ‘Who gave orders?’ –

But Erdogan did not confirm or even mention some of the most striking claims that appeared in the Turkish press over the last days, notably that Khashoggi’s body was cut up into multiple pieces or that there is an audio recording of the murder.

The president himself admitted that several questions remain unanswered.

“These (15) people, from whom did they get orders? … We are seeking answers,” he asked.

Taking aim at the inconsistent position of Riyadh in the days after the murder Erdogan added: “Why when the murder was clear, why were so many inconsistent statements made?”

Erdogan did not mention Prince Mohammed by name in the speech. But he said he was confident of the full cooperation of his father Saudi King Salman in the probe and vowed full retribution for all those guilty of the “savage murder”.

“The conscience of humanity will only be satisfied when those who ordered (the murder) and those who carried it out answer for their actions.”

Erdogan confirmed that a Saudi official played the role of body double for Khashoggi, wearing his clothes in a bid to show that the journalist had left the consulate.

The whereabouts of Khashoggi’s corpse is still unknown. Turkish police were searching an abandoned car belonging to the Saudi consulate in an underground car park in the Sultangazi district of Istanbul.

– ‘Only the Saudis know’ –

Jana Jabbour, a professor at Sciences Po university in Paris, told AFP that Erdogan could have chosen much sharper rhetoric against Riyadh, indicating that the two nations were talking behind the scenes.

“Erdogan’s very moderate speech shows that a deal has been reached,” she told AFP.

Yet the killing has alarmed even Saudi Arabia’s staunchest Western allies, who are also key weapons suppliers to the kingdom.

“The word from President Erdogan this morning that this brutal murder was premeditated, pre-planned days in advance flies in the face of earlier assertions that had been made by the Saudi regime,” US Vice President Mike Pence told an event at The Washington Post.

CIA Director Gina Haspel, meanwhile, headed for Turkey, although details of her trip were not immediately clear.

In London, a Downing Street spokesman said Erdogan’s statement showed that “there are many questions which only the Saudis have the answers to.”

– ‘Saudi in crisis’ –

A former royal family insider turned critic of the Saudi crown prince, Khashoggi, 59, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage.

The case has shone the spotlight on the crown prince, who was credited with reforms, including giving women the right to drive, but is now accused of having ordered Khashoggi’s murder — a claim Riyadh denies.

The key investment summit, dubbed “Davos in the desert”, began in Riyadh on Tuesday, overshadowed by big name cancellations.

Dozens of executives, including from banks Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan and ride-hailing app Uber pulled out of the three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII).

French energy giant Total’s head Patrick Pouyanne, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Jordan’s King Abdullah attended however. And in a rare public appearance since the crisis began, Crown Prince Mohammed was seen in the audience.

Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told delegates: “We are going through a crisis.”

King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed met with Khashoggi family members in Riyadh while Erdogan also telephoned the family to assure them the crime would be solved.