Although Turkish sources have for weeks said that they have an audio recording of the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday did not share any portion of that in a meeting with his AK Party members in parliament.
Erdogan did confirm a number of reports that have leaked into the headlines in previous days:
- The Saudis flew in a body double for Khashoggi, dressed him in the slain journalist’s clothing and had him walk around tourists sites.
- Saudi agents flew in the day before Khashoggi was expected at the consulate, removing cameras from the premises
- Three members of the 15-man kill team sent to meet Khashoggi spent time in the Belgrad forest, 55 miles south of Istanbul.
Erdogan said the killing of the the journalist — who disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 — was premeditated and “savagely planned.” He called for the Saudi suspects arrested in the Gulf Arab Kingdom to be tried in Turkey.
Although there were tweets circulating on Monday by people claiming to have seen photos of Khashoggi’s butchered remains, Erdogan said his body had not yet been found. He demanded that Saudi Arabia name the “local cooperator” to whom it claims its agents handed Khashoggi’s remains.
Earlier reports citing Turkish sources who claimed to have heard an audio recording from inside the consulate that day said that Khashoggi was dismembered, taking seven minutes to die.
The US is sending a known torturer, CIA Director Gina Haspel…
…to help the world's top jailer of journalists, Turkey…
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) October 23, 2018
Human Rights advocates have instead been calling for an independent, U.N.-driven investigation into Khashoggi’s case.
In a piece citing unnamed Saudi insiders and Turkish officials, Reuters reported that one of the men involved was a close aide to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (aka MBS) and orchestrated the killing in Istanbul via Skype, from Saudi Arabia.
Saud al-Qahtani, it is reported, was “beamed” into the Saudi consulate on Skype. He insulted Khashoggi, who responded in kind before the 15-man kill team took him out.
According to a Turkish source, Qahtani instructed the team, which included a forensic expert who had flown there with a bone saw, “Bring me the head of the dog.”
According to the source, Erdogan is also in possession of a recording of that Skype call.
The audio recordings — one from inside the consulate, said to include the final moments of Khashoggi’s life, as well as the Skype call — would only add the growing pile of evidence countering its shifting narrative on how Khashoggi came to be killed.
The Saudis initially claimed to have no knowledge of Khashoggi’s disappearance. After more than two weeks, they finally said he died accidentally when a fight broke out during the course of an interrogation.
They then said the entire mission was a “rogue” operation (which is exactly how President Donald Trump described the incident immediately after a call with MBS over a week ago) that somehow happened without the knowledge of Saudi leadership.
There’s still no explanation as to why a forensic expert with a bone saw was sent to an interrogation, and why, if Khashoggi really died accidentally, his body has been (apparently) disposed of.
For its part, Saudi Arabia is engaging in a battle of optics. Its foreign ministry on Monday posted a photo of a visit with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and on Tuesday, publicized meeting some of Khashoggi’s family members. Among them was Khashoggi’s son Salah, who has reportedly been under a travel ban in the kingdom for about a year.
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) October 23, 2018
The Kingdom claims there’s a plot against it, driven by their regional rivals, Qatar, its Turkish allies, and Western media.