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Turkey slams Riyadh's 'complete lack of transparency' in Khashoggi probe

Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2 [AFP]

Date of publication: 8 February, 2019

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An aide to Turkey's president said the “complete lack of transparency” from Saudi officials on the investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is detrimental to their credibility.
Turkey slammed the “complete lack of transparency” from Saudi officials in the ongoing investigation on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, noting it deeply concerning and detrimental to their credibility.

Fahrettin Altun, President Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director and a close aide to the leader said Riyadh’s continuous “false denials” led to uncertainty on a number of issues around the case.

“Over the past four months, the Saudi authorities have been less than forthcoming in their dealings with their Turkish counterparts and the international community,” Altun said in a written statement to Reuters.

“Saudi authorities must extradite Mr Khashoggi’s killers to Turkey, where they committed a premeditated murder, as proof of their willingness to serve the cause of justice.”

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who wrote critically about the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, likely at the orders of the young but powerful royal.

'Brutal and premeditated killing'

Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur leading an independent inquiry into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, has called the Saudi journalist's October killing a "brutal and premeditated killing" planned and perpetrated by Saudi officials in a report of early findings released on Thursday.

The human rights investigator has accused the Saudi government of hampering independent investigations into Khashoggi's death, describing the time Saudi officials had allocated Turkish investigators access to the crime scene "woefully inadequate".

Callamard said that the Saudi journalist’s death was an "irreversible tragedy" and a grave violation of the the right to life. She accused Saudi officials of exploiting diplomatic immunity, saying it was not intended to "facilitate the commission of a crime and exonerate its authors of their criminal responsibility" and Saudi officials' response to the killing "immunity for impunity".

Callamard's report of early findings comes after a week-long visit to Turkey, during which the investigator's team met with officials including the Chief of Turkish Intelligence, the Chief Prosecutor of Istanbul and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The team was also given access to parts of the audio recording of Khashoggi's death and dismemberment obtained by the Turkish intelligence agency, but was unable to independently verify the material.

She thanked the Turkish government for their full cooperation with the UN investigation but noted that the team had been unable to meet with key investigators who have been working on the case in Turkey.

Callamard called on the Turkish authorities to fulfil their promise to supply the UN with full access to forensic, scientific and police reports.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia had commissioned its own report into the killing compiled by private security firm Kroll.

The report predictably denies Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's involvement in the killing, claiming that no WhatsApp messages between Saud al-Qahtani, an aide to the crown prince who allegedly oversaw the killing, and the crown prince mentioned Khashoggi on the day of the killing.

Callamard expressed "major concerns" over the fairness of Saudi proceedings which have sought the death penalty for five of 11 suspects indicted over the killing.

'Use a bullet'

Meanwhile, a New York Times report this week revealed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he would use "a bullet" on journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2017.

Prince Mohammed is heard telling top aide Turki Aldakhil that Khashoggi, who was murdered last October, should return to Saudi Arabia or be brought back forcefully. If these two scenarios did not occur, he would kill Khashoggi with "a bullet", according to American officials with direct knowledge of the intercepts. 

The conversation was intercepted by American intelligence agencies in their attempts to uncover who was behind Khashoggi's death. 

The National Security Agency (NSA) and other US spy agencies have been combing through bin Salman's voice and text communications, according to the report.

US officials made clear to the NYT that bin Salman most likely did not mean use "a bullet" literally. But the conversation he had with his aid does strongly indicate that the prince wanted Khashoggi dead.

In their conversation, bin Salman and Aldakhil expressed  their concern at Khashoggi's prominence and his criticism of the Saudi regime. Their conversation in September 2017 took place at the same time that Khashoggi began writing for The Washington Post. 

The NSA has been circulating reports about the crown prince's communications to spy agencies, the White House and close foreign allies, the NYT reported. Shortly after Khashoggi's death, the CIA concluded the hit was ordered by the Saudi prince. 

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