The Saudi officials who killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi in their Istanbul consulate must reveal the location of his body, Turkey’s president said as he sharply criticised the kingdom’s handling of the case.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor will arrive in Turkey on Sunday as part of the investigation and will meet Turkish counterparts.
On Thursday, Saudi prosecutors said Mr Khashoggi’s killing was premeditated, citing Turkish evidence and changing the country’s account again to try to ease international outrage over the murder of a prominent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Turkey has other “information and evidence” about the killing by Saudi officials after Mr Khashoggi entered the consulate on October 2, and it will eventually reveal that information, Mr Erdogan said.
“There is no point in being too hasty,” he said in an indication that Turkey is prepared to maintain pressure on Saudi Arabia, even as the kingdom struggles for ways to end the crisis. CIA director Gina Haspel was in Turkey earlier this week to review evidence, and she briefed Donald Trump in Washington on Thursday.
What the US president called “one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups” was revealed to the world by Turkish leaks of information, including references to purported audio recordings of the killing, and security camera footage of the Saudi officials involved as they moved around Istanbul.
Key mysteries remaining include whether the killing was carried out with the knowledge of the crown prince, who denies it, and the location of Mr Khashoggi’s body.
“It is clear that he has been killed but where is it? You have to show the body,” Mr Erdogan said during an address to Turkey’s ruling party leaders. He criticised initial Saudi statements that claimed Mr Khashoggi had left the consulate unharmed after going there for paperwork related to his planned marriage to a Turkish woman.
“He will leave the consulate and not take his fiancee with him? Such childish statements do not go hand in hand with statesmanship,” said Mr Erdogan, again urging Saudi Arabia to turn over 18 suspects the kingdom said it had arrested and would punish for the crime.
“If you cannot get them to speak … then hand them over to us and let us put them on trial,” he added.
Mr Khashoggi’s son Salah has left Saudi Arabia after the kingdom revoked a travel ban, allowing him to travel to the US.
Mr Khashoggi’s fiancee said later that she has not received any condolence call from Saudi officials.
Hatice Cengiz, who is Turkish, also said in an interview on Turkish television channel HaberTurk: “I found myself in a darkness I cannot express.”
She said she had asked US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who called her about the case, whether he had any news that would make her happy. “But he said he didn’t,” she added.
State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said Washington welcomed the decision to have Salah Khashoggi and his family leave Saudi Arabia. His US destination was not immediately known but his late father lived in the Washington area.
The statement from Saudi prosecutors that evidence showed Mr Khashoggi’s killing was premeditated contradicted an earlier Saudi assertion that rogue officials from the kingdom had killed him by mistake in a brawl. That assertion, in turn, backtracked from an initial statement that Saudi authorities knew nothing about what happened to the columnist for the Washington Post.
The shifting explanations indicate Saudi Arabia is scrambling for a way out of the crisis that has enveloped the world’s largest oil exporter and a major US ally in the Middle East.
But a solution seems a long way off, partly because of deepening scepticism in Turkey and elsewhere that the brazen crime could have been carried out without the involvement of Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s heir apparent.