WASHINGTON, U.S. – After promising to reveal the “naked truth” about the death of veteran Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered his most scathing attack against the Kingdom over the incident.
On Tuesday, the Turkish President delivered a speech to ruling party lawmakers in the parliament and accused Saudi Arabia of carefully plotting Khashoggi’s “savage murder.”
Rejecting Saudi Arabia’s claim that Khashoggi’s death was accidental, Erdogan alleged that Khashoggi was “brutally murdered” in a meticulous operation carried out by a team of Saudi nationals.
The Turkish President said, “The information and evidence uncovered so far show that Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered. Covering up such a brutal act would wound the conscience of all mankind.”
A little over a week after Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never exited the building – sparking fears about his fate, Turkey’s State news agency had detailed the findings of its initial probe.
Turkish security officials quoted in the Anadolu report revealed that on October 2, just before Khashoggi was scheduled to visit the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a 15-member team from Saudi Arabia had arrived in Turkey.
Offering more details on the alleged Saudi operation, Erdogan told lawmakers that the 15-member team arrived in three batches that included two sets of three people and one group of nine.
Erdogan said that a day before the killing, on October 1, the first two batches of Saudis arrived in Turkey on commercial flights at 4.30 pm local time.
Erdogan added that “a third team of nine people, including generals,” arrived on a private plane.
According to the Turkish President, an hour before Khashoggi was due to arrive at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the 15-member Saudi team convened within the building.
Erdogan told lawmakers that the team’s first task was to “remove the hard disk in the camera system of the consulate,” and revealed that the consulate had been making preparations of its own.
Describing findings by Turkish investigators, Erdogan noted that a car was seen leaving the consulate as part of an “exploration mission” to the Belgrad Forest.
Media reports in Turkey revealed last week that the country’s investigators visited the forest north of Istanbul, as they expanded their search for Khashoggi’s remains.
‘Savage, premeditated murder’
Since Khashoggi’s disappearance on October 2, Saudi Arabia had faced increasing pressure from Turkey and then by several other nations and even its strongest allies.
However, despite facing widespread outrage, Saudi feigned ignorance over Khashoggi’s fate for 17 days.
Then, last Friday, Saudi acknowledged in a shocking statement that Khashoggi had died inside the consulate.
Saudi said that its prosecutor’s initial investigation had revealed that the veteran journalist had died after an argument with some people within the consulate escalated into a “fistfight,” in which Khashoggi was killed.
The Kingdom insisted that Khashoggi was placed in a chokehold and said that his death was an accident.
As part of its investigation, Saudi revealed that five top government officials had been fired and 18 suspects had been arrested in connection to the case.
A day later, Saudi switched its narrative in a bid to shield the Kingdom’s Crown Prince – whose closest aides were fired in the country’s investigation.
Two particular firings led to speculations over how the Crown Prince was possibly the one who had ordered the execution.
A day after admitting Khashoggi’s death, Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said that the journalist had in fact been murdered in a “rogue operation” that even the Kingdom’s leaders were unaware of.
However, Saudi offered no evidence or specific details, further jeopardizing its position.
On Tuesday, even though Erdogan dismissed Saudi’s narrative, the Turkish President called on the Kingdom to hand over the 18 people it claims to have arrested in connection with Khashoggi’s death so that they can face charges in the country where they committed the crime.
Erdogan argued, “The incident took place in Istanbul. Therefore the adjudication of these … 18 people should be carried out in Istanbul, that is my proposal.”
He also called on the Kingdom to disclose who ordered the operation that led to Khashoggi’s killing and declared that Turkey is pursuing the case as both a “representative of humanity’s shared conscience and also for its sovereign rights.”
Erdogan concluded that the killing was “pre-planned and premeditated,” but stopped short of making any allegations against any particular mastermind.
‘WORST coverup EVER’
Turkey’s comments were followed by the U.S. President Donald Trump’s statement over Khashoggi’s killing.
In what came as his harshest criticism of Saudi’s actions so far, the U.S. President told reporters that Saudi authorities had staged the “worst coverup ever” this month.
The U.S. President said that the Khashoggi matter was handled badly by Saudi officials and said, “They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly, and the coverup was one of the worst in the history of coverups.”
Trump added, “Bad deal, should have never been thought of. Somebody really messed up. And they had the worst coverup ever. Whoever thought of that idea, I think, is in big trouble. And they should be in big trouble.”
Later in the day, the U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. will revoke visas for individuals identified as being responsible for the journalist’s death.
Pompeo addressed a news conference at the State Department in Washington and announced that he and the president were “not happy with the situation.”
The top diplomat said, “We’re making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this ruthless action to silence Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence.”