The Turkish government has told U.S. officials it has audio and video evidence that Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and then dismembered in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul earlier this month, the Washington Post reported Thursday. The development in the cryptic case of the regime critic’s disappearance, which had already snowballed into a full-fledged international incident, could have significant repercussions for new Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Riyadh is already facing a gathering storm of international pressure in response to the Istanbul-based journalist’s presumed death after entering the consulate and never returning.
The Saudis have, of course, denied carrying out an international hit at a diplomatic compound in a foreign country, but haven’t offered much by way of alternative theories for what happened to Khashoggi beyond tepid assurances that he left the consulate shortly after arriving and they, too, are concerned about his wellbeing. The potential recordings, however, blow the Saudi explanations out of the water. From the Post:
The recordings show that a Saudi security team detained Khashoggi in the consulate after he walked in Oct. 2 to obtain an official document before his upcoming wedding, then killed him and dismembered his body, the officials said. The audio recording in particular provides some of the most persuasive and gruesome evidence that the Saudi team is responsible for Khashoggi’s death, the officials said. “The voice recording from inside the embassy lays out what happened to Jamal after he entered,” said one person with knowledge of the recording who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss highly sensitive intelligence. “You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” this person said. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.” A second person briefed on the recording said men could be heard beating Khashoggi.
The existence of recorded evidence also offers some explanation of why the Turkish government was quick to finger the Saudis for Khashoggi’s killing, without providing much insight into how it reached its conclusion. Officials say the Turkish government has resisted releasing the footage, the Post reports, because it would reveal how it surveils foreign diplomats in the country. It’s not clear if Turkish authorities have shared the tapes with U.S. officials or just briefed them on their contents, according to the Post.