Justin Trudeau says Canada has Khashoggi death tapes

Pressure mounts on White House to take action against those linked to the killing

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference at the Canadian embassy in Paris, France. Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference at the Canadian embassy in Paris, France. Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

 

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on Monday became the first world leader to state that his country’s intelligence service had heard the recordings of the October 2nd murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul during a visit to collect documents.

On Saturday, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara had handed over the audio material to the US, France, Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

“We gave them the tapes,” said Mr Erdogan, after weeks of speculation about the existence and content of recordings of Khashoggi’s death, the gruesome details of which had been partially leaked to Turkish newspapers.

Mr Erdogan has said the murder was premeditated and the order to kill Khashoggi had come from “the highest levels” of the Saudi government – though he did not specifically blame King Salman or say his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had given the order for the killing.

After a career in Saudi official media and advising Saudi princes, Khashoggi (59) defected a year ago, settling in Washington, where he became a correspondent for the Washington Post. In his writing for the paper, he criticised the authoritarian trajectory of the kingdom under bin Salman, its de-facto ruler.

Turkish officials have said Khashoggi was hooded, strangled and dismembered, and called for Riyadh to reveal the location of his body. The Turkish daily Sabah, which is close to the government, reported that traces of acid were found in the drains of the Saudi consul’s residence by Turkish forensic experts, suggesting his body had been dissolved and flushed down drains.

Mr Erdogan’s announcement puts pressure on the White House to punish those connected with the murder. While not apportioning responsibility, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has told bin Salman the US expects that all those involved will be held accountable.

So far the Saudis have detained 18 men, two of whom, Saud al-Qahtani and Ahmad al-Asiri, were close aides of bin Salman. Fifteen of the accused had arrived in Istanbul and visited the consulate while Khashoggi was there, before flying home that evening.

‘Rogue operation’

Khashoggi did not leave the consulate alive, although the Saudis initially said he had departed by the back door. They later said he had died during a fight at the consulate, before finally admitting he had been killed in a “rogue operation”.

Mr Erdogan’s gradual leaking of the circumstances of Khashoggi’s death has stoked tensions between Ankara and Riyadh, competitors for regional stewardship in the absence of traditional leaders Egypt, Syria and Iraq. In pursuit of this objective, Ankara has allied itself with Saudi opponents Qatar and Iran, both of whom Saudi Arabia has sought to isolate and sanction.

King Salman and his son have toured the kingdom to counter criticism over the Khashoggi affair and boost bin Salman’s position, which has been weakened by his disastrous war on Yemen, his attempt to force Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri to resign, and detention last November of 320 princes, officials and businessmen on corruption charges.

Turkey seeks to promote the Muslim Brotherhood, the model for Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, with the aim of securing Brotherhood influence in the Arab world and challenging Saudi Arabia.

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