Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Saudi Arabia of attempting to hide the “premeditated murder” in the the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the country’s consulate in Istanbul, calling in a Tuesday speech for the country to extradite the suspects to Turkey to face justice.
In a speech to his party in Ankara, Erdogan capped more than two weeks of carefully planned leaks about the killing, countering the Saudi line and putting international pressure on Saudi authorities to drop their shifting explanations for Khashoggi’s death and come clean about the killing.
Khashoggi, a vocal critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who had been working in the United States and writing for the Washington Post, was killed on Oct. 2 when he went to the Saudi consulate to pick up some paperwork. Saudi officials initially maintained that he had left the consulate safely, but finally, on Friday, they admitted that he had been killed there, though in what they described as an accidental killing from a brawl with “rogue” Saudi agents inside the consulate. On Monday, Turkish officials leaked photos of a Saudi official dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes, walking around Istanbul after Khashoggi’s death. Saudi officials confronted with the images confirmed that he was acting as a body double, with the purpose of bolstering their initial claim. The evidence pointed to a cover-up, at least, and hinted at premeditation.
Saudi Arabia has said 18 officials were under investigation for the killing. Erdogan in his speech Tuesday said that officials who arrived in Istanbul before the alleged murder included generals, and he encouraged the Saudis to reveal any senior officials involved in the killing, according to the New York Times. “It is clear that this savage murder did not happen at the drop of a dime but was a planned affair,” he said.
Erdogan, in his speech, presented a timeline of the killing with new details, though he left out some of the more grisly allegations about Khashoggi’s dismemberment. He described careful preparations for a murder, including a team of Saudis visiting rural areas around the city, where Turkish officials later focused their search for Khashoggi’s body, “for reconnaissance.”
Erdogan acknowledged that the killing occurred at the consulate, making it technically Saudi Arabian land, but he said that international agreements about consules “cannot allow the investigation of this murder to be concealed behind the armor of immunity.”
Khashoggi’s killing has drawn international attention to the ways in which the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has cracked down on rivals and dissidents. Khashoggi had been a critic of the crown prince, who has portrayed himself as a social reformer, for his imprisonment of political rivals and other abuses.
The killing has also drawn attention to the country’s close relationship with the United States, where the Trump administration, like other past administrations, has considered Saudi Arabia to be a key participant in its strategy for dealing with Iran. CIA Director Gina Haspel on Monday flew to Turkey, where she was expected to assess the Turkish evidence surrounding for its claims about the Khashoggi killing.
President Trump and other American officials have sent mixed messages in their response to the killing, at times defending the Saudis—with some Republicans conducting a “whispering campaign” against Khashoggi—and at times condemning the clear lies coming from the Saudi rulers. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with the crown prince, indicating that even in the midst of the international outcry over Crown Prince Mohammed’s connections to the murder of a dissident, the White House intends to keep its close ties with the Saudi leader.