Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for an independent investigation into what he says was the premeditated killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago.
In a much awaited speech to parliament in which authorities said the “naked truth” would be revealed, Erdogan recounted the events that led up to the disappearance of Khashoggi on the 2 October, confirming several of the media leaks that have been released.
“We have strong evidence that this murder was planned,” the president said in an address to lawmakers from his ruling party. “He was brutally murdered.”
He alleged that the plan to kill the political commentator was devised from the 28 September, when Khashoggi first entered the Saudi consulate to obtain documents proving his divorce. He was instructed to return on Tuesday, and was last seen by his fiancée when he entered the embassy at 1pm that day.
Erdogan stated that on the day before the murder, a team from Saudi Arabia inspected Istanbul Belgrad Forest and the coastal city Yalova. He also referenced Turkish media reports, which have alleged that a Saudi official travelled from Riyadh on the same day to reportedly convey the assassination order to the Istanbul consulate.
The president told parliamentarians of the steps Turkish authorities had taken since Khashoggi’s disappearance, including the search of the embassy building. He stressed that whilst Turkish officials could not enter the building due to the Vienna convention as permission was initially withheld, it was eventually given and paved the way for further investigations.
Erdogan affirmed that the 18 people that have reportedly been arrested in Saudi Arabia include the 15 identified by Turkish intelligence as having entered country on the same day as the murder and travelled to the consulate.
Whilst the Turkish premier did not directly indict anyone for the murder, he made a direct appeal to Saudi Arabian King Salman, whom he repeatedly described as the custodian of the two Holy Mosques, a move that commentators have remarked, is an attempt to differentiate the king from his controversial son Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
“Personally, I do not doubt the sincerity of King Salman of Saudi Arabia. With that said, such a critical investigation should be led by a truly impartial and just committee — nobody connected to the murder should be a part of the investigation team,” he concluded.
He vowed that Turkish authorities would continue their investigations into the incident and would find the perpetrators, adding that suspects should be held to account in Turkey.
“The incidents took place in Istanbul, therefore the adjudication of these 15 plus three, 18 people, should be carried out in Istanbul, that is my proposal,” he said to applause from the audience.
He also queried as to the location of Khashoggi’s body, amid news that Turkish investigators are currently searching a villa in Yavlova, which reportedly belonged to one of the hit squad members.
“On whose orders have these people come? We are seeking answers. Leaving some intelligence and security forces holding the bag will not satisfy either us or the international community.”
Pressure against Saudi Arabia has been rising over the past week, with numerous international firms and diplomats pulling out of the kingdom’s trade conference, dubbed “Davos in the Desert” that is due to start today. Germany also revealed yesterday that it was halting all arms sales to the Saudi government, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stating that his country was considering similar action.
Crown Prince Mohammed has also been the target of much criticism, after it was revealed that seven of the 15 men in the hit-squad were part of his personal security team. Whilst Saudi Arabia has admitted Khashoggi’s death, it have maintained that he was killed as a result of brawl in the consulate.
US President Donald Trump, who spoke with the prince on Sunday, said yesterday that he was still not satisfied with what he had heard from Saudi Arabia in regards to the incident, contradicting his previous insistence that the story was “credible”. However he added that he is reluctant to take action against the Kingdom, citing the American jobs created by Saudi investment.