SAUDI VERSION IS QUESTIONED
The Saudi explanation that a fatal brawl claimed the life of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been greeted with skepticism.
A spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party vowed Saturday that Turkey would “uncover what has happened” to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, hours after Saudi authorities said that the Washington Post contributing columnist had been killed this month during a fistfight inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
The Saudi explanation – that an argument in the consulate led to a fatal brawl – is at odds with the conclusions of Turkish investigators, who believe that Khashoggi was deliberately killed by a team of Saudi agents who were dispatched to Istanbul.
“We don’t blame anyone in advance, but we do not consent to this being covered up,” said the ruling party spokesman, Omar Celik, according to the semiofficial Anadolu news agency.
As Saudi Arabia’s closest Arab allies rushed to its defense on Saturday, the results of the Saudi investigation were being greeted with skepticism or derision in other quarters, including by several U.S. lawmakers and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
But Turkey’s reaction is being closely watched, because of the conflicting stories and because Turkish authorities are said to possess evidence that could reveal exactly how Khashoggi was killed. Erdogan’s government has so far refused to publicly share that evidence, possibly to protect Turkish surveillance methods but also, analysts said, to preserve a measure of leverage over the Saudis and the Trump administration.
Khashoggi, a resident of Virginia, vanished on the afternoon of Oct. 2, after visiting the Saudi Consulate to obtain documents that would allow him to remarry. For weeks, Saudi Arabia had denied any knowledge of his whereabouts and insisted that he had walked out of the consulate unharmed. The denials became harder to maintain as the Turkish authorities leaked investigative details, many lurid, about the case to the local and international news media.
The Saudi story changed early Saturday, when the government acknowledged for the first time that Khashoggi, who had written columns for The Post critical of the Saudi leadership, was dead. Saudi authorities said they had fired five top officials and arrested 18 other Saudi nationals as a result of the preliminary investigation. Two of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s close advisers were among those fired.
In a possible attempt to preempt Turkey’s ongoing criminal investigation,
Saudi Arabia’s justice minister, Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani, on Saturday said Saudi courts had jurisdiction over the case because it occurred in a Saudi consulate, which “falls within the sovereignty of the Kingdom,” according to a statement posted on the official Saudi Press Agency.
Trump told reporters Saturday afternoon that he would be speaking with the crown prince and was considering placing sanctions on Saudi Arabia, though preferably not on U.S. sales of arms and other military equipment.
EMRAH GUREL AP Turan Kislakci, head of the Turkish-Arab media association and a friend of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, talks to the media Saturday near Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.