Turkey's Erdogan says Khashoggi's death was 'premeditated'

The accusations made by the leader of Saudi Arabia’s regional rival could further inflame the diplomatic crisis over the killing of the regime critic.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that evidence showed that the killing of Saudi Arabian writer Jamal Khashoggi was "premeditated."

"Security and intelligence information shows that this was premeditated," Erdogan said in a much-anticipated speech in parliament in which he detailed the official findings of his country's investigation into what happened to the Washington Post contributor after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

 
 

The accusations made by the leader of Saudi Arabia’s regional rival could further inflame the diplomatic crisis over the killing of the regime critic.

Erdogan said that a team of Saudis arrived in Istanbul the day before Khashoggi was killed. Cameras outside the consulate were removed the same day Khashoggi disappeared.

Many questions remained about the case, Erdogan said.

“Who instructed these people?” he asked, according to a translation by Sky News. “Why were all these different statements made,” the Turkish leader added, referring to the conflicting accounts by Saudi authorities. “Why is the corpse of a murdered person still missing?”

 

Turkish authorities have said they had audio recordings proving Khashoggi was killed inside the buildingalleging he was dismembered. Other regional diplomats have told NBC News that they believe his remains were removed from the consulate in boxes.

 

Erdogan’s address coincided with the opening of the Future Investment Initiative, a glittering gathering under the auspices of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that is aimed at showcasing oil-rich Saudi Arabia as a moderate high-tech mecca. In recent days, a slew of businesses leaders and media companies announced that they were pulling out of the meeting dubbed “Davos in the Desert.”

In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir admitted that Saudis were involved in Khashoggi's killing but described it as a "rogue operation."

 

After weeks of vehemently denying that it had anything to do with the disappearance, the kingdom announced Friday that 18 Saudi nationals were being investigated over Khashoggi's death. The Saudi government also said five officials had been fired.

 

The man at the center of the controversy and Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, the crown prince, has been charged with reorganizing the intelligence service and thus widely seen to be tightening his grip on power.

                    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Bin Salman has launched a high-profile campaign to revamp Saudi Arabia’s image abroad, and wean its economy off of oil.

While he has won plaudits in the West for his efforts to steer Saudi Arabia toward more moderate Islam, bin Salman has also overseen a wide crackdown on dissent that has engulfed fellow royals, clerics and women’s rights and democracy campaigners.

 

President Donald Trump has weighed in on the controversy several times, a sign of how seriously the crisis is being taken in the White House. The administration has made Saudi Arabia a linchpin of its Middle East policies and embraced the crown prince as a key ally.

Trump initially showed support for the kingdom, but later questioned the Saudi account of Khashoggi’s disappearance. The president has also said he has spoken with the crown prince.

The administration also dispatched senior officials to Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabiaand Turkey to discuss Khashoggi's disappearance.

 

CIA Director Gina Haspel was traveling to Turkey as part of the investigation into Khashoggi’s death, a senior U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter told NBC News overnight.

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with the crown prince in Riyadh, although he said last week he would not attend the Future Investment Initiative.




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