Los Angeles Times
Turkey asks: ‘Where is the body?’
Erdogan dismisses Saudis’ changing explanations about Khashoggi’s death.
BEIRUT — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday demanded that Saudi Arabia’s leaders reveal the location of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s body, dismissing their shifting explanations for his Oct. 2 death inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul as “comical.”
“These childish statements do not match with the seriousness of government affairs and statesmanship. … Where is the body?” Erdogan said in an address to his ruling Justice and Development Party in the capital, Ankara, according to the Turkish state-run international news agency Anadolu.
He added that 18 Saudi nationals now under investigation in Saudi Arabia know who killed Khashoggi, referring to members of a group of Saudis who had traveled to Istanbul hours before the killing and returned hours after the journalist disappeared.
He also demanded that Saudi authorities reveal the identity of a local Turkish collaborator Saudi authorities claim disposed of the body after it had been hidden inside a rolled-up carpet.
“They key point is the cooperation of these 18 people,” Erdogan said. “If [the Saudis] cannot make them talk — the event took place in the consulate general in Istanbul — then hand them to us, and let us judge them.”
After weeks of denying any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts, Saudi Arabia acknowledged the journalist was killed at its consulate and arrested 15 Saudi nationals who had gone back and forth from Riyadh, the Saudi capital, as well as three others, and said it would investigate and try those involved in its own judiciary system.
The Saudi government also removed five key associates of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is widely suspected of involvement in the slaying of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote critically of the Saudi government.
Ramping up pressure on Mohammed, the kingdom’s de facto leader, Erdogan asked Friday: “Above all, who gave the order to send those people to Turkey?”
Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor is due to arrive in Istanbul on Sunday, said Erdogan, adding that Turkey would reveal more information and evidence related to the killing.
Friday’s speech was the latest shift in a diplomatic dance that has seen Erdogan switch from saying he “trusted the sincerity” of Saudi monarch King Salman to excoriating Saudi officials for their varying explanations.
On Wednesday, the Turkish leader appeared to have reached a detente with the crown prince, discussing in a phone call joint efforts to clarify “all aspects” of Khashoggi’s killing, according to an Anadolu report. Mohammed said the issue would not “drive a wedge” between the two countries.
But Erdogan’s words two days later, among his harshest since the crisis began, signaled a renewed determination to pressure Saudi Arabia on an issue that threatens to neuter the crown prince.
Meanwhile, sources close to the Khashoggi family told Reuters that Salah Khashoggi, the eldest son of the journalist, had landed in Washington and joined his family.