Saudis re­ject mur­der claim


Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

>> DUBAI: Saudi Ara­bia dis­missed yes­ter­day ac­cu­sa­tions that Ja­mal Khashoggi was or­dered mur­dered by a hit squad in­side its Istanbul con­sulate as “lies and base­less al­le­ga­tions”, as Riyadh and Ankara spar over the miss­ing jour­nal­ist’s fate.

A Saudi del­e­ga­tion was in Turkey for talks on the case, which threat­ens not only to harm frag­ile re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries but also to do se­ri­ous dam­age to the re­formist cre­den­tials of Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man and the king­dom’s ties to the West.

As the con­tro­versy in­ten­si­fied, The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported Turk­ish of­fi­cials had record­ings made from in­side the build­ing that al­legedly proved their claims Khashoggi was tor­tured and killed at the con­sulate.

Big names from me­dia and busi­ness have al­ready can­celled ap­pear­ances at a ma­jor con­fer­ence in Riyadh this month and both the IMF chief and the US trea­sury sec­re­tary made their at­ten­dance con­di­tional on the find­ings in the case.

In the first Saudi min­is­te­rial re­ac­tion to Turk­ish ac­cu­sa­tions that Khashoggi was killed, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Prince Ab­del Aziz bin Saud bin Nayef con­demned “what has been re­ported in cer­tain me­dia con­cern­ing false ac­cu­sa­tions against Saudi Ara­bia... in the case of the dis­ap­pear­ance of its cit­i­zen Khashoggi”.

“What has been re­ported on the mat­ter of or­ders to kill him is a lie and a base­less al­le­ga­tion,” the min­is­ter said in com­ments car­ried by the of­fi­cial Saudi Press Agency.

He added t he king­dom was “in com­pli­ance with in­ter­na­tional l aws and con­ven­tions”.

Saudi jour­nal­ist and Wash­ing­ton Post con­trib­u­tor Khashoggi van­ished on Oc­to­ber 2 af­ter en­ter­ing the con­sulate to ob­tain doc­u­ments for his up­com­ing mar­riage.

The Saudi del­e­ga­tion, whose com- po­si­tion was not im­me­di­ately clear, is ex­pected to meet with Turk­ish of­fi­cials in Ankara at the week­end, state me­dia said on Fri­day.

It is likely that they will take part in a joint work­ing group on the case, whose cre­ation was an­nounced on Thurs­day by Turk­ish pres­i­den­tial spokesman Ibrahim Kalin fol­low­ing a re­quest by Saudi Ara­bia.

A Saudi of­fi­cial source quoted by SPA news agency said it was “a pos­i­tive move” Turkey had agreed to the cre­ation of what it de­scribed as a “joint ac­tion team”.

The Turk­ish lead­er­ship has so far stopped short of ac­cus­ing Saudi Ara­bia, al­though pro-gov­ern­ment me­dia have pub­lished sen­sa­tional claims, in­clud­ing that an “as­sas­si­na­tion team” was sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan has chal­lenged Saudi Ara­bia to pro­vide CCTV images to back up its ac­count that Khashoggi left the con­sulate safely.

Khashoggi, a Saudi na­tional liv­ing in the US since Septem­ber 2017 fear­ing ar­rest, crit­i­cised some poli­cies of Mo­hammed bin Sal­man and Riyadh’s in­ter­ven­tion in the war in Ye­men.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has told US of­fi­cials it has au­dio and video record­ings which show how Khashoggi was “in­ter­ro­gated, tor­tured and then mur­dered” in­side the con­sulate be­fore his body was dis­mem­bered.

Turk­ish of­fi­cials re­fused to com­ment on the ve­rac­ity of the re­port.

IMF chief Chris­tine La­garde said yes­ter­day she was “hor­ri­fied” by re­ports about Khashoggi’s fate, while US Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin ex­pressed con­cern”.

But both said that for now they still planned to at­tend an Oc­to­ber 23-25 con­fer­ence in Riyadh, dubbed “Davos in the Desert” af­ter the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in the Swiss re­sort.

“The an­swer is for now I am” still go­ing, Mr Mnuchin said. “If more in­for­ma­tion comes out over the next week, I will ob­vi­ously take that into ac­count.”

Ms La­garde said she had to “con­duct the busi­ness of the IMF in all cor­ners in the world”.

“So at this point of time my in­ten­tion is to not change my plans and to be very at­ten­tive to the in­for­ma­tion that is com­ing out in the next few days.”

Bloomberg, the Fi­nan­cial Times, The Econ­o­mist and The New York Times with­drew as the event’s me­dia spon­sors, while the CEO of ride-hail­ing app Uber, Dara Khos­row­shahi said he would no longer be at­tend­ing un­less “a sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent set of facts emerges”.

Ankara and Riyadh have been on op­pos­ing sides in the re­gion on key is­sues, in­clud­ing the oust­ing of the Is­lamist Egyp­tian gov­ern­ment and last year’s Saudi-led block­ade on Turkey’s re­gional ally Qatar. Yet as key Sunni Mus­lim pow­ers they have main­tained cor­dial re­la­tions.

But de­spite Riyadh’s agree­ment on Tues­day to let Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties search the Saudi mis­sion, the probe has not yet taken place. The two sides have been in in­tense con­tacts to re­solve the is­sue, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

Pro-gov­ern­ment Turk­ish news­pa­per Sabah said of­fi­cials wanted to search the build­ing with lu­mi­nol, a chem­i­cal that al­lows foren­sic teams to dis­cover blood traces, but the Saudis had so far re­fused.

Of­fi­cers were look­ing into sound record­ings sent from a smart watch Khashoggi was wear­ing when he en­tered the con­sulate to a mo­bile phone he gave to his Turk­ish fi­ancee out­side, Hat­ice Cen­giz.

Turk­ish daily Mil­liyet re­ported “ar­gu­ments and shout­ing” could be heard on the record­ings.

LAST PUB­LIC SIGHT­ING: CCTV footage shows Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi, right, ar­riv­ing at the Saudi Ara­bian con­sulate in Istanbul ear­lier this month.

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