Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has requested the extradition of 18 Saudi officials suspected of murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate. In an address to the Turkish parliament in Ankara on Tuesday, President Erdogan laid out what he said were the facts of the case in which the dissident Saudi writer was killed on October 2, outlining an apparently pre-planned murder.
A 15-person team made up of senior Saudi officials meticulously planned the operation before his “gruesome” murder, including the use of a body double to falsely suggest Khashoggi had left the building alive, Mr. Erdogan said. It was the first time a Turkish official has publicly accused Saudi officials on record of the premeditated killing of Khashoggi.
The Turkish president, while noting that international law and the Vienna convention gave diplomatic immunity to the consulate building and its staff, said a full investigation must be carried out by a neutral party to hold those culpable to account.
“We will not be satisfied until all those, from the person who gave the order to those who carried it out” are found, Mr. Erdogan said.
Mr. Erdogan called the death of Khashoggi an “attack on Turkey’s reputation” which “will not be able to detain us from the seeking the truth”.
Mr. Erdogan said he believed King Salman was not aware of the plot to kill Khashoggi. He made no mention of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Turkish president said that the names of suspects provided by Saudi Arabia matched those identified by Turkish authorities during their investigation. But he called into question the ability of Saudi authorities to investigate the killing, saying the investigation needed to be carried out by an independent authority without the suspicion of any connection to the culprits.
Accordingly, he requested that King Salman waive diplomatic immunity for the suspects so they could be extradited to face investigation in Turkey.
“The incident took place in Istanbul … therefore the adjudication of these 18 [suspects] should be carried out in Istanbul,” he said. “This is at [King Salman’s] discretion but this is my suggestion.”
Mr. Erdogan also questioned why Khashoggi’s body had not been found even after Saudi authorities admitted to his killing. “If his body was given to a local collaborator, who is he?” Mr. Erdogan asked.
CIA Director Gina Haspel is among the intelligence officials who are in Turkey to review the case, according to a US official. US President Donald Trump has said he’s not satisfied with the explanations he has heard from Saudi Arabia about the death of the Washington Post columnist and critic of the kingdom.
Earlier, Mr. Erdogan had promised to tell the “naked truth” about the killing of Khashoggi during his weekly address to parliament.
His speech on Tuesday was the first time the president had spoken about Khashoggi’s death in detail. Until now, media have been updated with a steady stream of reports by anonymous Turkish officials.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih acknowledged “these are difficult days” for Saudi Arabia in an address to the three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh.
“We are going through a crisis,” Mr. Al Falih said in his speech.
Mr. Al Falih said the murder of Khashoggi was regrettable, adding that “nobody in the kingdom can justify it”.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia publicly said the insider turned critic had died after an altercation at the consulate.
“Discussions that took place between him and the persons who met him at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul led to a brawl and a fistfight with the citizen, Jamal Khashoggi, which led to his death,” Saudi Attorney General Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb said. Prosecutors said the 18 men were involved in an unsanctioned operation and later attempted to cover up the killing from officials in Riyadh.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir on Sunday told Fox News that Khashoggi’s killing was “a rogue operation” and that “we don’t know where the body is”.
“The individuals who did this did it outside the scope of their authority,” Mr. Al Jubeir said. “There obviously was a tremendous mistake made and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover it up. That is unacceptable to the government.”
Saudi Arabia says senior officials including Prince Mohammed were unaware of the operation.
The foreign ministry has insisted those responsible will be held accountable.
Saudi Arabia’s explanation has been questioned by leaders in the US and Europe.