Turkish president: Khashoggi killing ordered by 'highest levels' of Saudi government

Turkish president: Khashoggi killing ordered by 'highest levels' of Saudi government

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Friday that the order to kill U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.

“We know that the perpetrators are among the 18 suspects detained in Saudi Arabia,” Erdoğan wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post published Friday.

“We also know that those individuals came to carry out their orders: Kill Khashoggi and leave. Finally, we know that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government.”

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Still, Erdoğan listed who exactly "gave the order to kill this kind soul" among a list of unanswered questions.

“As responsible members of the international community, we must reveal the identities of the puppetmasters behind Khashoggi’s killing and discover those in whom Saudi officials — still trying to cover up the murder — have placed their trust,” he concluded.

Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and Washington Post columnist critical of the Saudi government, was killed Oct. 2 when he went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee.

After first claiming Khashoggi left the consulate alive, Saudi officials acknowledged on Oct. 19 that he was killed. At that point, the Saudi government said he was intentionally killed in a physical altercation in an unapproved operation to return to him to Saudi Arabia.

Days later, a Saudi prosecutor acknowledged the killing was premeditated.

A Turkish prosecutor said this week that Khashoggi was strangled soon after entering the consulate and that his body was then dismembered and disposed of.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has denied any foreknowledge of the plot, but skeptics in the United States and elsewhere are doubtful it could have been carried out without the approval of the kingdom’s day-to-day leader.

In his op-ed, Erdoğan does not mention Crown Prince Mohammed. But he does say he does not think King Salman gave the order to kill Khashoggi.

“As we continue to look for answers, I would like to stress that Turkey and Saudi Arabia enjoy friendly relations,” he wrote. “I do not believe for a second that King Salman, the custodian of the holy mosques, ordered the hit on Khashoggi. Therefore, I have no reason to believe that his murder reflected Saudi Arabia’s official policy.”

Erdoğan said several question remain about the killing, including where his body is and who the supposed “local collaborator” is who the Saudis say was given Khashoggi’s remains.

“Unfortunately, the Saudi authorities have refused to answer those questions,” Erdoğan wrote. “Some seem to hope this ‘problem’ will go away in time. But we will keep asking those questions, which are crucial to the criminal investigation in Turkey, but also to Khashoggi’s family and loved ones.”

He added that Turkey has shared evidence with allies including the United States “to ensure that the world will keep asking the same questions.”

Erdoğan also warned against committing similar acts on NATO soil again.

“If anyone chooses to ignore that warning, they will face severe consequences,” he said. “The Khashoggi murder was a clear violation and a blatant abuse of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Failure to punish the perpetrators could set a very dangerous precedent.”