SAUDI VER­SION IS QUES­TIONED

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY KA­REEM FAHIM Wash­ing­ton Post

The Saudi ex­pla­na­tion that a fa­tal brawl claimed the life of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi has been greeted with skep­ti­cism.

IS­TAN­BUL

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.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald

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.

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