Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was intricately planned days in advance and asked for the trial of the 18 assassins in Istanbul.
Erdogan had promised that his speech in Ankara to party men would give the “naked truth” about the killing and he gave a host of new details while still saying Turkey wanted answers to key questions, including who gave the orders.
“First they (the Saudis implicated) removed the hard disc from the camera system,” Erdogan said. “This is a political murder,” he added.
Erdogan said that all information, evidence that has been revealed until now showed that Khashoggi was the victim of a “savage” murder, Anadolu news agency reported.
Erdogan said Saudi teams made explorations in Istanbul’s Belgrad Forest and the northwestern province of Yalova before murdering Khashoggi.
Erdogan also said that the Saudi government formally admitted to the killing of Khashoggi 17 days after his murder.
“Vienna convention would not allow such a ‘savage’ murder,” Erdogan said.
“Diplomatic immunity, which is a part of the Vienna Convention, will be opened to debate,” he said.
President Erdogan also proposed that the 18 suspects involved in the murder should stand court trial in Istanbul as the murder was committed there.
“Everyone, those who ordered his murder and those who executed it, should answer for their doing,” Erdogan said, labelling the killing of Khashoggi a “political murder”.
Erdogan also said anyone from countries other than Saudi Arabia who might have been accessory to the grisly murder should be investigated too.
“It is very important that such a critical investigation should be conducted by a neutral and fair committee,” he said.
Erdogan also said that putting the blame on a few security and intelligence officers would not convince Turkey or the international community.
“Conspiracy attempts against the reputation of Turkey on international media has not and will not stop us from trying to search for facts,” Erdogan said, vowing to unveil all aspects of the Khashoggi murder.
“Turkey, aside from its own sovereign rights, will follow the issue in the name of the international community as a representative of humanity’s common conscience,” Erdogan added.
Separately, Erdogan offered condolences to the family and relatives of Khashoggi.
Hours before Erdogan delivered his speech to ruling party lawmakers, a major Saudi investment forum opened in Riyadh under the heavy shadow of the murder after key delegates pulled out.
The murder of the Washington Post contributor has damaged the international reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has spearheaded a reform drive in the kingdom.
Erdogan did not mention Prince Mohammed by name in the speech but said he was confident of the full cooperation of his father Saudi King Salman in the probe.
Saudi Arabia only confirmed the killing more than two weeks after the event. The killing has alarmed even Saudi Arabia’s staunchest Western allies.
A former royal family insider turned critic of the Saudi crown prince, Khashoggi, 59, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage.
The case has shone the spotlight on the crown prince, who was credited with reforms including giving women the right to drive but is now accused of having ordered Khashoggi’s murder — a claim Riyadh denies.
The timing of the controversy could not be worse for Prince Mohammed as the investment summit, dubbed “Davos in the desert”, began in Riyadh, overshadowed by big name cancellations and Erdogan’s threat of revelations.
Dozens of executives, including from banks Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, ride-hailing app Uber and Western officials such as International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde have pulled out of the three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII).
French energy giant Total’s head Patrick Pouyanne, however, said he would attend the meeting, arguing that “empty chair politics” do not advance human rights.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin would not export arms to Riyadh “in the current situation,” despite Germany’s approval last month of 416 million euros’ ($480 million) worth of arms exports in 2018.
Despite also pulling out of the summit, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met the crown prince behind closed doors for bilateral talks in Riyadh. CIA Director Gina Haspel, meanwhile, headed for Turkey, although details of her trip were not immediately clear.
White House advisor and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, believed to have close ties with the crown prince, said he had urged him to be “fully transparent”, stressing that “the world is watching”.
Speaking in Jakarta, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir vowed “a thorough and complete investigation”. He said procedures would be put in place to “ensure that something like this can never happen again.”
With Khashoggi’s remains still missing, Turkish police have found an abandoned car belonging to the Saudi consulate in an underground car park in the Sultangazi district of Istanbul, state media said.
CNN broadcast images apparently showing a Saudi official playing a body double for Khashoggi, wearing the journalist’s clothes, exiting the consulate.