Khashoggi ‘body double’ footage emerges from outside Saudi consulate
Erdogan to give parliament ‘naked truth’ about journalist’s murder in speech on Tuesday
Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears primed to assemble two weeks of leaks, insinuation and police evidence in an explosive speech in the Turkish parliament on Tuesday alleging that the Saudi Arabian government murdered the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Turkish soil.
After weeks of leaks by Turkish police implying that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, must have known of a premeditated murder, there was no last-minute sign that the Turkish president would hold back from revealing what he has described as the “naked truth” about Khashoggi’s death. On Monday an aide vowed: “Nothing will remain secret.”
Mr Erdogan’s statement coincides with the opening by the crown prince himself of an investment conference in Riyadh. Aides say Mr Erdogan will address Saudi Arabia’s belated admission that Khashoggi died inside the Saudi consulate, where he was last seen on October 2nd.
The crown prince has denied any knowledge of the killing, and his foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, has said the operation was a terrible mistake carried out by a rogue group.
The White House has been making frantic private efforts to reduce the fallout from Saudi Arabia’s disastrous mishandling of the Khashoggi case, urging Me Erdogan not to rub the crown prince’s face in the dirt.
US president Donald Trump said on Monday that he was unsatisfied with Saudi Arabia’s explanations of what happened to Khashoggi, but he did not want to lose investment from Riyadh.
The Turkish drip-drip of leaks has already forced Saudi Arabia to make an unprecedented admission of guilt, leading to the sacking of two of the crown prince’s closest aides as well as 18 other Saudi officers.
In the latest leak, CCTV footage emerged on Monday that appears to show a Saudi agent leaving the country’s consulate in Istanbul wearing Khashoggi’s clothes. CNN aired the footage, citing a Turkish official who identified the man as Mustafa al-Madani, a “body double” and member of a 15-man Saudi team sent to Istanbul to target Khashoggi.
Mr Erdogan’s spokesman, Ömer Çelik, vowed Turkey would continue until the end to enlighten the world of the “nefarious murder” of Khashoggi, who was a prominent critic of the crown prince.
He said the killing “was planned in an extremely savage manner”. It was the first official indication that Ankara believes a murder plot was co-ordinated in advance. “We are faced with a situation where there has been a lot of effort to whitewash this,” he said.
Despite rapid progress in the Turkish police investigation, it would be a surprise if Mr Erdogan can report on Tuesday on the two main outstanding issues in the investigation – the location of Khashoggi’s body and whether evidence exists showing the crown prince ordered the killing or had prior knowledge.
Mr Erdogan also has the chance in his speech to reveal details of an audio recording that purportedly exists of the moments of Khashoggi’s death and dismemberment.
Turkish opposition figures had initially thought that Mr Erdogan would exploit Saudi’s embarrassment by bargaining for favours from Washington and Riyadh in exchange for choosing not to publish hard evidence. But it is possible that the president instead sees the episode as a chance to engineer a recasting of the entire political dynamic across the Middle East, chiefly by weakening the crown prince’s authority.
Mr Erdogan’s aides have made no secret that they believe the young prince has destabilised the region, pointing to the 16-month Saudi-led boycott of Qatar as a prime example.
The UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said Saudi Arabia’s explanation for how Khashoggi died was “not credible”, while Theresa May condemned the killing “in the strongest possible terms” and said “we must get to the truth of what happened”.
Mr Hunt told MPs the UK would have to be thoughtful in its response because “we have an important strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia involving defence and security cooperation which has saved lives on the streets of Britain. We also have a trading partnership that supports thousands of jobs”.
But he added: “I have also been clear that if the appalling stories we are reading turn out to be true, they are fundamentally incompatible with our values and we will act accordingly.”
Speaking in London, Qatar’s foreign policy spokeswoman, Lolwah R M Al-Khater, described the Khashoggi killing as “a wake-up call for the entire region”. She said she had faith in the Turkish justice system.
Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, who struck up a friendship with Prince Mohammed, said he had told the crown prince to be transparent over Khashoggi’s murder.
“Right now we are more in the fact-finding phase,” he told a conference organised by CNN. “We are getting facts from multiple places. The secretary of state is working with the national security team and we will determine what we want to believe, what is credible and what is not credible.”
Asked what advice he had given to the crown prince, he said: “To be fully transparent. The world is watching ... To take this very seriously.” When asked about the prince’s response, Mr Kushner said: “We’ll see.”
German chancellor Angela Merkel pre-empted other EU countries by saying there should be at least a temporary ban on arms sales to Saudi, but her economics spokesman said such a move would only be worthwhile if other countries agreed.
“There is no positive effect if we remain the only ones to stop exports and at the same time other countries fill the hole,” Peter Altmaier said.
In Westminster, Mrs May came under pressure from MPs to end sales, but she said it was necessary to discover the truth of what had happened. The French government also refused to endorse an end to arms sales. – Guardian