‘Where Is The Body?’ Erdogan Piles More Pressure On Saudi Arabia Over Khashoggi Murder
ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan intensified the pressure on Saudi Arabia in a speech Friday, demanding that the kingdom reveal the location of the remains of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi and suggesting that Turkey has additional “information and documents” about the killing that it would eventually reveal.
Erdogan also repeated his call on Saudi Arabia to hand over the 18 people it has arrested in the case if the country’s authorities could not “make them talk.”
“Hand them over to us,” Erdogan said. “The event took place in Istanbul. We will judge them.”
Erdogan’s comments to ruling party officials in Ankara marked Turkey’s latest attempt to press Saudi Arabia on a crime that has drawn global condemnation and has prompted countries to reevaluate their ties with the Middle East power.
U.S. and foreign officials say such an operation — involving a team of Saudi agents — was unlikely to have taken place without the knowledge of the kingdom’s leaders, including ambitious Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In the aftermath of Khashoggi’s killing inside the Saudi Consulate on Oct. 2, Saudi Arabia has offered shifting explanations for what happened, at one point saying Khashoggi had walked out of the building unharmed and later saying his death resulted from a fistfight. But Thursday, the country made its first apparent acknowledgment that the operation was “premeditated.” Erdogan on Friday did not mention that development, but instead criticized earlier Saudi accounts as “comical.”
“These childish statements do not coincide with the seriousness of the state,” Erdogan said.
Turkey has launched an expansive search for Khashoggi’s remains, and their whereabouts are one of the major outstanding questions in the case. Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor, Erdogan said, will arrive Sunday in Istanbul as part of the investigation.
“There has been a declaration that he has been killed, but where is the body?” Erdogan said. “You must show it.”
For Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, the crime has provided grounds for pushing back against Saudi Arabia, one of its regional rivals, and weakening the credibility of the crown prince. Mohammed this week called the killing a “heinous crime.” Both Mohammed and his father, King Salman, have told President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who traveled to Saudi Arabia last week, that they had no knowledge of a plot to kill Khashoggi.
Still, the Trump administration is facing pressure to take action against the kingdom, even though an alliance with the Saudis has been a pillar of its strategy in the Middle East to counter Iran. Trump has called Khashoggi’s murder “one of the worst coverups in the history of coverups.”
On Thursday, CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed Trump about her recent trip to Turkey, where she listened to purported audio of Khashoggi’s killing.
Khashoggi was a contributing Washington Post columnist who was visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain marriage documents. He was a royal court insider who had become critical of the Saudi government, and he was living in exile in Virginia, in part because of the nation’s diminished speech freedoms and its crackdown on dissent.