World Turkish prosecutor : Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered
TURKEY’S top prosecutor on Wednesday laid out the most detailed description yet of how the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed, saying Saudi agents strangled him to death almost immediately after he after entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and then dismembered him.
But the new information did not address the question that has bedeviled investigators and been the subject of furious speculation: What happened to Khashoggi’s remains?
A senior Turkish official said in an interview that Turkish authorities are pursuing a theory that Khashoggi’s dismembered body had been destroyed in acid on the grounds of the Saudi Consulate or at the nearby residence of the Saudi consul general. Biological evidence discovered in the consulate garden supports the theory that Khashoggi’s body was disposed of near to where he was killed and dismembered, the official said.
“Khashoggi’s body was not in need of burying,” said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive investigation.
While Saudi officials now acknowledge that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate on Oct. 2, all they have said about his body is that the assailants gave it to a “local collaborator” for disposal. The senior Turkish official said Turkish investigators do not believe such a figure exists.
A second senior Turkish official said that Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor, Saud al-mojeb, who completed a three-day visit to Istanbul on Wednesday, did not provide the location of Khashoggi’s body or identify any “local collaborator.”
Since Mojeb arrived in Turkey on Monday, “Saudi officials seemed primarily interested in finding out what evidence the Turkish authorities had against the perpetrators,” the Turkish official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private law enforcement contacts. “We did not get the impression that they were keen on genuinely cooperating with the investigation.”
Turkish prosecutor Irfan Fidan issued his public description of the killing shortly after Mojeb left Istanbul, amid mounting Turkish complaints about a lack of Saudi cooperation.
Fidan said Khashoggi was “strangled as soon as he entered the consulate” in line with “premeditated plans.” The body, “after being strangled, was subsequently destroyed by being dismembered, once again confirming the planning of the murder,” Fidan said.
The Turkish statement used the word “bogulmak,” which can also mean suffocation.
Turkish officials say members of a 15-man hit team dispatched from Saudi Arabia killed Khashoggi inside the consulate before flying out of Turkey later the same day.
The Turkish government says it has what it describes as an audio recording of what transpired inside the mission. Although Turkish officials have played the audio for CIA officials, including Director Gina Haspel, Turkish officials have not released the audio to the public.
Saudi Arabia has provided shifting explanations about what happened to Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen, contributing columnist to The Washington Post and critic of the Saudi leadership, including the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. For more than two weeks, Saudi authorities repeatedly denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts, then abruptly changed their account, blaming the killing on agents acting outside the Saudi government’s authority.
Turkish investigators initially focused their search for Khashoggi’s body in two wooded areas outside Istanbul, guided in part by surveillance footage that Turkish authorities said showed Saudi diplomatic vehicles apparently scouting Belgrad Forest the night before the journalist was killed.
Last week, investigators suspended the search, focusing instead on the consulate’s grounds and the consul general’s residence.
The search focused in particular on a well on consular property, where the assailants could have disposed of Khashoggi’s dissolved remains, the first senior Turkish official said.
Investigators last week also inspected the sewer system near the consulate, according to Turkey’s staterun Anadolu news agency.
–The Washington Post