Tur­key seeks ar­rest of Saudis

The Australian - - WORLD -

IS­TAN­BUL: A Turk­ish court has is­sued ar­rest war­rants for two sus­pects close to Saudi crown prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man over the mur­der of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi, in­creas­ing pres­sure on the king­dom’s de facto leader.

The chief pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice in Is­tan­bul filed an ap­pli­ca­tion on Tues­day to ob­tain the war­rants for Ah­mad al-As­siri and Saud al-Qah­tani, de­scribed in court doc­u­ments as be­ing “among the plan­ners” of Khashoggi’s grisly killing.

Then late on Wed­nes­day, an Is­tan­bul court is­sued the ar­rest war­rants for As­siri and Qah­tani on the charge of “de­lib­er­ately killing (some­one) with mon­strous feel­ing or caus­ing tor­ment”, ac­cord­ing to state news agency Anadolu.

As­siri, the for­mer deputy head of gen­eral in­tel­li­gence, of­ten sat in dur­ing Mo­hammed’s closed-door meet­ings with vis­it­ing for­eign dig­ni­taries. Qah­tani was a key coun­sel­lor to the crown prince.

Both were sacked af­ter Riyadh ad­mit­ted Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi con­sulate.

Saudi Ara­bia has sought to dis­tance Mo­hammed from the mur­der and has re­ceived sup­port from Don­ald Trump. His ad­min­is­tra­tion has down­played pos­si­ble links be­tween the crown prince and what hap­pened to Khashoggi.

But two key sen­a­tors from Trump’s own Re­pub­li­can Party said this week that a brief­ing by CIA Di­rec­tor Gina Haspel had strength­ened their con­vic­tion that Mo­hammed di­rected the mur­der.

US Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee chair­man Bob Corker said he had “zero ques­tion in my mind” that Mo­hammed di­rected the killing af­ter an hour­long brief­ing to a small group of sen­a­tors by Ms Haspel.

Trump ally and fel­low Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham said the “crazy” crown prince was “com­plicit in the mur­der of Mr Khashoggi to the high­est level pos­si­ble”.

Khashoggi, a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Post, was killed shortly af­ter en­ter­ing the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul on Oc­to­ber 2 to ob­tain pa­per­work for his up­com­ing mar­riage.

Ac­cord­ing to Tur­key, a 15mem­ber Saudi team was sent to Is­tan­bul to kill him. Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan has said the or­der to kill Khashoggi came from the high­est lev­els of the Saudi gov­ern­ment, but has in­sisted it was not King Sal­man.

The Is­tan­bul pros­e­cu­tor in charge of the Turk­ish in­ves­ti­ga­tion said in late Oc­to­ber that Khashoggi, a for­mer Saudi in­sider turned critic, was stran­gled then his body was cut into pieces.

Turk­ish of­fi­cials have searched the con­sulate, the con­sul-gen­eral’s res­i­dence, a for­est in Is­tan­bul and two vil­las in the north­west­ern prov­ince of Yalova, but Khashoggi’s re­mains have still not been found.

Riyadh, af­ter ini­tially deny­ing that Khashog­ghi had been killed at the con­sulate, has de­tained 21 peo­ple over the mur­der and is seek­ing death penal­ties against five of them. But it has strongly de­nied the prince was in­volved.

A se­nior Turk­ish of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day that the pros­e­cu­tor’s move “re­flects the view that the Saudi au­thor­i­ties won’t take for­mal ac­tion against those in­di­vid­u­als”. Riyadh could “ad­dress those con­cerns” by ex­tra­dit­ing the sus­pects to Tur­key.The of­fi­cial also sug­gested there could be more ar­rest war­rants sought by the pros­e­cu­tor.

Mr Er­do­gan main­tained pres­sure on Riyadh this week in an in­ter­view with re­porters dur­ing his visit to South Amer­ica, urg­ing the king­dom to pro­vide fur­ther de­tails.

“Where is Khashoggi’s body? Your team of 20 knows this,” he de­manded, the Hur­riyet news­pa­per quoted him as say­ing.

On Satur­day, Mr Er­do­gan in­sisted that the Saudis ex­tra­dite sus­pects in the killing to Tur­key for trial, but said the king­dom was not co-op­er­at­ing.

For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu yes­ter­day said Tur­key would “not hes­i­tate” to seek an in­ter­na­tional probe if there were dif­fi­cul­ties dur­ing its probe.

The US, France and Canada have placed sanc­tions on nearly 20 Saudis. Two-time Os­car win­ner Sean Penn was in Is­tan­bul this week film­ing a doc­u­men­tary about the mur­der.

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