Ankara, Turkey – President Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that the people arrested by Saudi Arabia for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi be tried in Istanbul.
In a statement to members parliament from his party, he also demanded that Saudi Arabia provides information about the Istanbul collaborator who Saudis say the hit team gave the body of Khashoggi wrapped in carpet for disposal.
In a wide-ranging, hard-hitting speech relating to the murder, Erdogan outlined the details of the team that arrived in Istanbul and said it included forensic pathologists and generals and he called it a premeditated murder, rather than something that occurred because of a struggle within the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“Id like to talk about the journalist Jamal Khashoggi who we now know for certain was murdered in consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul,” said Erdogan as he began the statement on the preplanned slaying.
“Jamal Khashoggi for the first time on the 28th of September, Friday, at 11.50 goes into the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul for marriage related reasons,” he said.
He said this information about the visit was given to “the team that planned and executed the murder of this journalist, so this was the beginning of that planning phase.”
Some consulate officers left for Saudi Arabia as part of this planning phase, he added.
A team of three people arrived from Saudi to Istanbul a day before the murder and checked into a hotel prior to going to the consulate.
A second team of operatives arrived later while some people scouted out a forest near Istanbul. A third team of people “including generals” arrived in a plane from Saudi to Istanbul. The total number now assembled in Istanbul were 15 members.
The first thing the team did was to dismantle surveillance cameras and in the meantime, the consulate called Khashoggi to confirm his appointment, said Erdogan.
Once Khashoggi arrived nothing was heard until his fiancee raised the alarm and Turkish authorities began investigating. They concluded that he had not left the consulate.
Diplomatic immunity prevented immediate entry into the consulate. But intelligence began looking into the matter. And things became “interesting.”
“First of all, starting from the day prior to the day of murder different planes were taken by 15 Saudi safety and intelligence and forensic experts who came to our country.”
On the day of the incident, three separate teams left Istanbul for Saudi Arabia including an individual who was dressed to look like Khashoggi, said Erdogan.
Those working at the consulate had earlier been told that because of an inspection they would have to leave.
Erdogan said he had a phone conversation with the King of Saudi Arabia and agreed on a joint investigative team.
He said the Saudi government admitted days later that Khashoggi was murdered inside the consular premises.
“It was mentioned that Khashoggi died during a brawl that erupted in the building,” he added. He said in another phone call the Saudi King told him 18 people had been arrested and the list showed that the people arrested included all 15 people who had come to Istanbul for the mission, and three consulate workers.
“This murder was committed in the Saudi consular building which is considered as Saudi soil but one must not forget that is within the boundaries of the Republic of Turkey.”
“The information and the evidence that we have collected indicates that Jamal Khashoggi was slain in a vicious, violent murder,” he said, contradicting the brawl theory put forward by the Saudis.
Saudi Arabia took an important step by admitting that there was a murder, but “now our expectation is that all those responsible from the highest level to the lowest level will be highlighted, will be brought to justice and will get the punishment they deserve.”
He emphasized that the murder was not something that just happened but was a “planned operation.”
‘Why was this team of people assembled in Istanbul on that day,?”he asked.
“Who gave the instructions to these individuals to come to Istanbul?”
Additionally, he asked why there was such a delay in opening the consulate to Turkish authorities.
“Now that there is acknowledgment that there was a murder where’s the body,” he asked.
If the information is that the body was given to a local collaborator, then the name of the collaborator should be provided.
“Who is this local, co-conspirator?” asked Erdogan. “You will reveal the identity of this local co-conspirator, you’ll do this.”
He said there is additional information that shows the murder was “preplanned, premeditated.”
Erdogan said just putting the blame on intelligence operatives will not satisfy Turkey or the International authority.
He said all people involved should be identified including any from any other country who were involved.
“Also let me make a call here today – this is a call to his excellence the King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz custodian of the two mosques – this incident took place in Istanbul – therefore, this team of 18 people, their trials, I’m proposing that their trials be held in Istanbul.”