By Our Foreign Correspondent
- Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed after entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2
- Turkish President Erdogan said there was strong evidence the killing was ‘planned’ in advance
- Erdogan said in parliament on Tuesday a team of Saudi officials had disabled CCTV in the consulate building
- He called Khashoggi’s death ‘a political murder’ and demanded to know ‘who gave orders’
- Claims some of Khashoggi’s remains have been found in the grounds of the Saudi consul general’s home
- But in his speech, Erdogan had earlier said a corpse had not yet been located
- Pictures have emerged showing Khashoggi’s son, Salah, meeting the Crown Prince today in Riyadh
Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi shared a stern handshake with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful heir to Saudi Arabia’s throne, at the city’s Yamama Palace.
King Salman was also present as the royals ‘offered their condolences’ to grieving family members, who included Salah’s brother Sahel. A friend of the Khashoggi family said the government banned them from leaving the country last year in a bid to pressure the journalist to return home.
As the de facto ruler of the kingdom, the Crown Prince has been widely blamed for the death, which was carried out by a hit squad of senior Saudi intelligence officials. Critics suspect he ordered the high-profile operation or at least knew about it.
It comes amid claims parts of the writer’s body including his disfigured face have been found in the grounds of the Saudi consul general’s home in Istanbul, with separate reports saying the remains were found down a well at the property.
This afternoon, Turkish police found three suitcases, a laptop and clothes possibly belonging to Khashoggi in a Saudi diplomatic car which was abandoned in an underground car park in the city, CNN Turk reported.
The discovery came after the G7 nations issued a rare joint statement demanding a ‘full and rigorous’ investigation into the killing and punishment for those to blame.
It read: ‘We reiterate our expectation for a thorough, credible, transparent, and prompt investigation by Saudi Arabia, in full collaboration with the Turkish authorities, and a full and rigorous accounting of the circumstances surrounding Mr Khashoggi’s death.
‘Those responsible for the killing must be held to account. Saudi Arabia must put in place measures to ensure something like this can never happen again. The circumstances of Mr Khashoggi’s death reaffirm the need to protect journalists and freedom of expression around the world.’
On Tuesday night US President Donald Trump criticised the Saudi operation to kill Khashoggi. ‘They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly and the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups,’ Trump declared in the Oval Office.
‘It’s very simple. Bad deal, should have never been thought of. Somebody really messed up,’ Trump said. But he also said Saudi Arabia had been a ‘great ally’ and a top U.S. investor.
‘They are doing hundreds of billions of dollars worth of investments and, you know, So many jobs,’ he said. Then he pointed to regional rival Iran, saying they have been ‘vicious, horrible.’
‘And that’s no excuse for what happened with Saudi Arabia. No excuse whatsoever. But you take a look, it’s a rough part of the world. It’s a nasty place. It’s a nasty part of the world,’ Trump said. Then he added: ‘But, if what happened happened, and if the facts check out, then it’s something that’s very bad.’
Following the arrest of 18 suspects by Saudi Arabia, Trump said the person who ‘thought of’ the idea should be held accountable. ‘Whoever thought of that idea, I think is in big trouble. And they should be in big trouble. Okay?’ he said
Earlier, the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Khashoggi’s ‘savage’ murder was planned by a Saudi hit squad who disabled CCTV at the Istanbul consulate before killing the writer and giving his body to a local fixer.
Khashoggi’s son was ‘disengaged and vulnerable’ while the Crown Prince was ‘compassionate’: Body language expert analyses the meeting
Picture 1: We can see from Salah’s face that his chin is a fraction high, the front lips are pushed slightly forward, with the corners pulled inwards and the eye muscles are still, suggesting an overall mix of being emotionally disengaged, a sense of vulnerability together with a held-in anger. These are all emotions that we might well feel under the circumstances of uncertainty around what has happened to his father.
His arm is also muscularly disengaged. It is held with a formal extension without the usual elbow bend. His hand doesn’t grip as in a usual handshake leaving the fingers open and disconnected.
The Crown Prince appears to deliberately lower his head as if to show condolence and compassion. His handshake is open and gentle but again without the usual muscle involvement. Perhaps he is taking his cue from Salah here to create rapport? His body language is calm, open and respectful.
In the background we see the Crown Prince once again lowering his head to show respect but he seems more relaxed when speaking here to Sahel than to Salah as we see a hint of smile and his handshake is more engaged.
He said a three-person team arrived in Istanbul the day before Mr Khashoggi’s murder and checked into a hotel before heading to the consulate.
Another team from the consulate carried out exploratory searches in the Belgrad forest and Yalova, a woodland area which Turkish police have searched. He also confirmed that the hard-disk in the camera system at the consulate was ‘ripped out’.
According to a Sky News report, parts of the writer’s body were discovered in the garden of the house, but it is not clear how much of his remains were found.
A separate report in Turkey claimed that the body parts were found in a well at the property. But in a speech earlier today, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested a corpse had not yet been discovered and called on Saudi Arabia to reveal its location.
If proved true, questions will be raised over why it has taken so long to discover any of Khashoggi’s remains.
Turkish forensic police have been pictured searching the grounds of the Saudi consul general’s house in Istanbul
Suitcases found in Saudi diplomatic car
This afternoon, Turkish police found three suitcases, a laptop and clothes in a Saudi diplomatic car which was abandoned in an underground car park in the city, CNN Turk reported.
It is not clear if the possessions belonged to Khashoggi – who did not have any suitcases or a laptop on him when he entered the Istanbul consulate before his murder.
Turkish police are still looking for his body.
According to a car park employee, a Saudi consulate attaché unloaded the suitcases from the car, put them in his vehicle and drove away.
The employee said he asked the attaché jokingly: ‘Khashoggi’s body is not inside the suitcases, is it?’
He said the attaché laughed and answered ‘no’. It was claimed that Saudi Arabia had originally prevented a police search of the abandoned car because it had a diplomatic licence plate.
The location of Mr Khashoggi’s body is just one of the questions we need answers to and as such we await the full results of the Turkish investigation.’
Saudi Arabia’s consul general Mohammed al-Otaibi fled Istanbul last week before his home was searched by Turkish police. He was then placed under investigation and relieved of his position, the kingdom said in a statement. Earlier today, Erdogan said he had told King Salman that the consul was ‘incompetent’.
In an explosive speech today, Erdogan said there were strong signs a Saudi team plotted to kill the dissident journalist days before his death on October 2.
The 64-year-old described it as a ‘political murder’ but stopped short of directly blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the effective ruler of the kingdom – instead demanding to know ‘who gave the orders’ for the operation.
In response, Saudi King Salman said at a cabinet meeting this afternoon that those responsible for Khashoggi’s slaying would be held ‘accountable’.
Officials including ‘intelligence, security and forensic personnel’ were seen entering the building where Khashoggi disappeared, Erdogan said, while some were seen exploring a nearby forest beforehand.
The revelation will fuel speculation the team was scouting an area where they could potentially ditch a body.
- Turkish media reported that intelligence officers intercepted no fewer than seven phone calls from a member of the hit squad to the private office of the Saudi Crown Prince on the day Khashoggi went missing
- Separate reports claimed Khashoggi’s fingers were cut off and sent back to Saudi Arabia as ‘proof’ of a successful mission
- Saudi and Turkish intelligence sources told Reuters a royal aide named Saud Al-Qahtani, who was sacked over the killing, directed the murder at the consulate by giving orders over Skype, telling the hit squad ‘bring me the head of the dog’
- A Future Investment Initiative conference, dubbed ‘Davos in the Desert’, opened in Riyadh with Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih saying ‘these are difficult days’ for Saudi Arabia and calling the country a nation ‘in crisis’.
- Despite global outrage over Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia is expected to sign deals worth more than $50 billion on the opening day alone
- A friend of Khashoggi claims he was working on exposing Saudi Arabia’s use of social media ‘troll farms’
In his speech, Erdogan called for 18 people arrested in Saudi Arabia to be tried in Istanbul, but said blaming some intelligence members for the killing will not satisfy Turkey ‘or the international community’.
Speaking to members of his AK Party in parliament, he also questioned why a corpse had yet to be found and called on Saudi Arabia to reveal the identity of a ‘local cooperator’ who purportedly took the body.
The majority of his claims have already been leaked, but for Erdogan to make the revelations in a speech to parliament raises the stakes in the region.
Erdogan’s speech was previously pitched as revealing the ‘naked truth’ about Khashoggi’s slaying. Instead it served merely to put a named source to information already circulated by anonymous officials.
Khashoggi flew to his death from London
Jamal Khashoggi flew in to Istanbul from London just hours before his ‘savage’ murder, the president of Turkey has revealed.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Mr Khashoggi had returned to Turkey on October 2 – the day of his death.
He added that the journalist had been called at 11.50am that morning to confirm his appointment at the Saudi consulate. At 1.08pm, Mr Khashoggi walked into the consulate building. Footage has emerged of Mr Khashoggi speaking at a conference on Israeli- Palestinian relations in London three days before his death.
Speaking at the Wellcome Collection on September 29, he said diplomatic solutions to resolve the Palestine conflict had failed.
He said the issue of Palestinian self-determination was a ‘burning topic’ in Saudi Arabia, but it was for Palestine to decide on its future without outside interference.
Just hours earlier, a major Saudi investment forum opened under the heavy shadow of the murder after key delegates pulled out.
The murder of the Washington Post contributor has damaged the international reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has spearheaded a reform drive in the kingdom.
Erdogan said three operatives arrived in Istanbul the day before Khashoggi’s killing on an apparent reconnaissance mission. The next day 15 people came to the consulate.
‘Why did these 15 people meet in Istanbul on the day of the murder? We are seeking answers to this. Who are these people receiving orders from?’ Erdogan said.
‘My demand is that 18 people be tried in Istanbul,’ Erdogan said in his speech, referring to 18 people including security officials who have already been detained by Riyadh.
He added that ‘all those who played a role in the murder’ had to face punishment.
Erdogan said that the murder was ‘planned’ days in advance according to a ‘roadmap’ set up by a Saudi team who were sent to Istanbul for the purpose.
The surveillance system at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was deactivated on purpose, he said.