Statement is first official Turkish confirmation of how Saudi journalist died
Jamal Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, then his body dismembered and destroyed in a premeditated killing, the city’s chief prosecutor has said in the first official confirmation of how the Saudi journalist died.
Riyadh previously said Khashoggi died in a fight in a rogue extradition operation, and has maintained that his body, intact, was wrapped up in a rug and disposed of by an unidentified “local collaborator”.
“The victim’s body was dismembered and destroyed following his death by suffocation,” Wednesday’s statement said, bolstering Turkish investigators’ line of thought that Khashoggi’s remains could have been disposed of at the nearby consul general’s house, dissolved in acid or dumped in a well on the property.
The fresh revelations from Istanbul came on the heels of the Saudi chief prosecutor’s departure from the city after a two-day visit – underlining how little co-operation there has been so far in what is supposedly a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation.
It also suggests that Turkey has more evidence to table, and the steady drip of information about the crime leaked or released by Turkish officials so far will continue as president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seeks to pile yet more pressure on his rivals in Riyadh.
Istanbul’s chief prosecutor, Irfan Fidan, said discussions this week with his Saudi counterpart, Saud al-Mojeb, had yielded “no concrete result”.
Fidan’s office was clearly disappointed in the lack of progress: in two meetings over two consecutive days repeated requests for the extradition of the 18 Saudi suspects for trial in Turkey, details on the “planning stage” of the killing and identity of the local collaborator were not answered.
The Saudi prosecutor had promised “same day” answers, the statement said.
While Saudi Arabia has admitted that the dissident writer’s killing when he visited on 2 October to collect documents for his upcoming wedding was premeditated, it has not explained how.
Searches of the diplomatic mission where Khashoggi died and the consul general’s house, where it is believed his body was taken, have faced several delays from Saudi investigators: surfaces inside the consulate had been freshly painted by the time Turkish investigators were allowed in, and cars of interest to the criminal investigation had been thoroughly cleaned.
On his departure, Mojeb invited the Istanbul investigators to Riyadh to share evidence collected so far with counterparts in the Saudi capital and interrogate the suspects under Saudi supervision.
Turkey has reportedly so far refused to share what is believed to be damning audio and video evidence related to Khashoggi’s death with Riyadh, suggesting it may have been obtained by spying on the diplomatic mission or by hacking Saudi officials’ communications.
Saudi Arabia did not immediately comment on the prosecutor’s visit.
The Saudi prosecutor also noted that no statement had been made by the kingdom regarding the existence of a “local cooperator”, Fidan’s office said – once again muddying the previous Saudi version of events.