Turkey: Highest level of Saudi govt ordered writer's slaying

Missing Journalist Jamal Khashoggi with his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, Photo Date: undated / Photo: Hatice Cengiz / (MGN)
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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The order to kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi came from the highest level of the Saudi government, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday, adding that the international community had the responsibility to "reveal the puppet masters" behind the slaying.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Erdogan said he did not believe that Saudi King Salman had ordered the killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate on Oct. 2. He said Turkey's close ties to Saudi Arabia did not mean that Turkey could turn a blind eye to the killing of the journalist.

"We know that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government," Erdogan said.

Erdogan wrote: "As responsible members of the international community, we must reveal the identities of the puppet masters behind Khashoggi's killing and discover those in whom Saudi officials —still trying to cover up the murder — have placed their trust."

Istanbul's chief prosecutor announced Wednesday that Khashoggi, who lived in exile in the United States, was strangled immediately after he entered the consulate as part of a premeditated killing and that his body was dismembered before being removed.

Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 suspects who were detained in Saudi Arabia so they can be put on trial in Turkey. They include 15 members of an alleged Saudi "hit squad" that Turkey says was sent to Istanbul to kill The Washington Post columnist who had written critically of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Some of those implicated in the killing are members of the crown prince's entourage.

In the opinion piece, Erdogan did not mention the prince. But few in Turkey and elsewhere believe that the crime could have been carried out without the knowledge of the kingdom's powerful heir apparent.

Meanwhile, a Turkish official said he believes Khashoggi's body was dissolved in acid or other chemicals after it was mutilated.

Yasin Aktay, a ruling party adviser to Erdogan, told The Associated Press on Friday that "there can be no other formula" to explain why Khashoggi's remains have not been found a month after he was killed.

Aktay, who was friend of Khashoggi's, said he believes that the body was cut into pieces so that it could be dissolved in chemicals. He said: "all the findings point to his body parts being melted." But the official did not offer any proof for his comments.

Khashoggi had entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to collect a document he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee.

In Bulgaria on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Khashoggi's slaying a horrendous act that "should be duly dealt with" in a way that doesn't undermine Saudi Arabia's stability.

Netanyahu said at a news conference that Iran is a bigger threat than Saudi Arabia and those who want to punish the Middle East kingdom need to bear that in mind.

"A way must be found to achieve both goals, because I think that the larger problem is Iran," said the Israeli leader, who attended a meeting of the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania and the president of Serbia at a Black Sea resort.


Khashoggi's fiancée asks Trump to press Saudis for his body

By MATTHEW PENNINGTON, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) —

The Turkish fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi called Friday for President Donald Trump's help in pressuring Saudi Arabia to reveal the location of the slain journalist's body, even as she criticized the U.S. administration for its dealings with the kingdom.

Hatice Cengiz made her appeal in a video message to a memorial in Washington where friends and activists marked one month since Khashoggi's death and paid tribute to his advocacy for democratic change in the Arab world.

Cengiz urged Trump to support Turkey's request for Saudi Arabia to extradite those it has detained in connection with the killing of the 59-year-old columnist for The Washington Post.

"I would like him to support Turkey's efforts in trying to bring light to this situation and to discover the whereabouts of his body," said Cengiz, who was waiting outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 when the journalist went inside to obtain paperwork for their planned marriage, never to re-emerge.

Cengiz lamented that without his body, Khashoggi's loved ones had been unable to hold funeral prayers for him. "Our pain is still as fresh as the first day," she said.

Istanbul's chief prosecutor announced Wednesday that Khashoggi was strangled immediately after he entered and that his body was dismembered and removed from the consulate.

Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 suspects so they can be put on trial in Turkey. They include 15 members of an alleged Saudi "hit squad" that Turkey says was sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi, who lived in exile in the United States and had written critically of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Some of those implicated in the killing are close to the prince, whose condemnation of the killing has failed to ease suspicions that he was involved. Saudi Arabia has changed its narrative about Khashoggi's killing several times, but has recently acknowledged that Turkish evidence shows it was premeditated.

On Thursday, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters Khashoggi's remains should be located and returned for a proper burial.

Speaking at Friday's memorial at a Washington hotel, Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, who represents the northern Virginia district where Khashoggi had been based for the last year of his life, said that since the killing, Saudi Arabia has "blatantly concocted a series of lies" in its attempt to cover up what happened.

"There's only one lie left to be addressed and that's the involvement of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia himself," Connolly said.

Other speakers called for the United States not to balance its strategic and military interests against the necessity of seeking justice for the journalist's killing.

"We can't let the criminals behind this off the hook. We can't ignore this because we want to sell more weapons," said Ahmed Bedier of United Voices for America, a U.S.-based civil society group.

Trump has condemned Khashoggi's killing in strong terms but has also defended U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which is the biggest foreign customer for American weaponry.

Writing in The Washington Post on Friday, Cengiz said the United States should be leading the international community in seeking justice for Khashoggi. She contended that the Trump administration has "taken a position that is devoid of moral foundation" because of fears of "upsetting deals or economic ties."