/ 29 October 2018

Saudi and Turkish prosecutors meet over Khashoggi investigation

After a fortnight of denials
After a fortnight of denials, Saudi authorities admitted on Saturday that the Washington Post columnist was killed after entering the consulate on October 2. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor met with his Turkish counterpart in Istanbul on Monday to discuss the investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose body has not been found, as Ankara called on the probe to be completed as soon as possible.

The case has brought near unprecedented international scrutiny on Saudi Arabia, which is seeking to draw a line under the crisis as Western powers demand answers over Khashoggi’s murder.

The head of the Saudi investigation, Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb, met with Istanbul chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan in the city’s main Caglayan court for around 75 minutes, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Mojeb, who last week acknowledged that the killing was “premeditated” based on Turkish evidence, arrived in Istanbul early Monday and is expected to inspect the Saudi consulate where Khashoggi was killed.

The 59-year-old Washington Post contributor, who had criticised Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, vanished after entering the consulate on October 2 to obtain paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee.

“We naturally see an advantage in our prosecutors sharing information and working together,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a press conference in Istanbul following the meeting.

“The cooperation must continue, but it must not be drawn out or turned into a diversion. The investigation must be completed as soon as possible, so that the whole truth is revealed,” he added.

Body still missing

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that a 15-person team came from Riyadh to kill Khashoggi, carrying out reconnaissance outside Istanbul and deactivating security cameras at the consulate.

Gruesome reports in the Turkish media have alleged that Khashoggi’s body was cut up into multiple pieces.

Saudi authorities have arrested 18 men over the murder, and Erdogan has requested they be extradited for trial in Turkey.

But Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir rejected the request, saying the men will be prosecuted in Saudi Arabia and dismissed media “hysteria”.

Erdogan, who has stopped short of directly blaming the Saudi government, has also called on Saudi Arabia to reveal the location of Khashoggi’s body, indicating that his country had more evidence to reveal about the killing.

Asked about the body’s whereabouts on Monday, Cavusoglu said that “as those who committed the murder are in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia has a very large responsibility”.

Turkish investigators have searched for the body in a forest near Istanbul, as well as using a robotic arm to inspect the sewers around the Saudi consulate.

Saudi authorities denied Turkish police permission to search a well in the garden of the consulate, but did allow them to take water samples for analysis, local media reported.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said Sunday that Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir assured him that Riyadh would conduct a “full” investigation, adding he was confident the probe would include Turkey’s findings.

Backlash against the kingdom

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 story was undercut by footage, which Erdogan confirmed, of a Saudi official acting as a body double for Khashoggi, wearing the journalist’s clothes when leaving the consulate to pretend to be the dead man.

Since admitting the murder was premeditated, Saudi leadership has blamed a “rogue operation” for the killing of Khashoggi, who was once an insider in Saudi royal circles and had lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 2017.

Beyond the detention of the 18 suspects, five Saudi intelligence chiefs have been sacked, including two who were part of the crown prince’s inner circle.

Prince Mohammed has denounced the murder as “repulsive” and strongly denied any involvement.

However the affair has tarnished the image of the crown prince, the de facto leader of the oil-rich Gulf nation, who has positioned himself as a Saudi reformer.

© Agence France-Presse