Erdogan calls for Khashoggi hit squad to be tried in Turkey


Erdogan calls for Khashoggi hit squad to be tried in Turkey

Royal condolences: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud , Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives Khashoggi family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Reuters
Royal condolences: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud , Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives Khashoggi family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday said the killing of Jamal Khashoggi was “a political murder” planned in advance by Saudi Arabian operatives and demanded “the person who gave the order” be held accountable.

In his first major speech since the journalist disappeared, Mr Erdogan said the murder of the ‘Washington Post’ columnist was pre- meditated and several members of the so-called hit squad arrived in Istanbul ahead of Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance to scope out a forest.

Mr Erdogan said Turkey would not accept Saudi Arabia’s explanation the killing was a botched operation carried out by rogue intelligence officials and implied he believed it was ordered by senior leaders.

“Leaving some security and intelligence forces holding the bag will not satisfy us or the international community,” he said. “The human consciousness will not be satisfied until all those – from the person who gave the order to those who carried it out – are brought to account.”

He said he wanted the 18 Saudi men who have been arrested for the murder to be extradited to Turkey to face charges, a challenge to the Saudi government which has said they will be tried in Saudi courts.

Mr Erdogan’s speech adds to pressure on Riyadh, which has been facing a wave of international scepticism since it announced over the weekend that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, was not involved in the killing.

The Turkish president made no mention of the crown prince in his speech but said Saudi Arabia’s own investigation would not be enough.

Nor did he make any reference to the tapes Turkish officials are believed to have of Mr Khashoggi’s torture and killing, which appears to implicate the prince’s inner circle.

“I don’t doubt the sincerity of King Salman,” he said. “But such a critical investigation should be carried out by a delegation that is fair, truly unbiased and does not even have the slightest suspicion of contact with the incident.”

Mr Erdogan posed a series of questions, demanding to know where Mr Khashoggi’s body was and to know the name of the “local collaborator” Saudi Arabia says hid the corpse.

He asked “on whose orders” the team of soldiers, spies and a forensic expert flew into Istanbul and why people with those skill sets had been assembled. He also demanded to know why Saudi officials had not immediately opened the consulate for inspection, stalling for more than a week before allowing a search.

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“Until these questions are answered, no one should give the slightest thought to this matter being covered up,” he said.

Top Turkish officials have said Turkey would clarify exactly what happened to Mr Khashoggi and a stream of leaks to national and international media has increased pressure on Saudi Arabia, which is hosting an investment conference this week that many dignitaries have decided to skip.

After initially denying any knowledge of Mr Khashoggi’s fate, the kingdom gave a new story on Friday night, saying he had died in a “fistfight”.

The timing of the controversy could not be worse for the crown prince.

His annual conference, the Future Investment Initiative, kicked off yesterday and was intended to draw leading investors who could help underwrite the heir-apparent’s ambitious plans to revamp the economy.

But the summit, nicknamed “Davos in the desert”, has been overshadowed by growing global outrage. So much so that MBS, as he is nicknamed, decided not to not appear on the opening day.

Joe Kaeser, chief executive of German industrial conglomerate Siemens, was the latest among dozens of global executives to withdraw from the summit, hosted by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund.

Ministers from the United States, Britain and France – which have huge defence deals at stake with Saudi Arabia – have already pulled out of the summit.

Corporate heads from JP Morgan to car manufacturer Ford and ride-hailing app Uber, as well as media powerhouses like Bloomberg, CNN and the ‘Financial Times’, all abandoned plans to attend.

Organisers have taken down a list of speakers from its website and refused to confirm the number of attendees.

In another setback, the forum’s website went down after an apparent cyber-attack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

US President Donald Trump said he was “not satisfied” with Riyadh’s explanation of the death and other world leaders are demanding answers. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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