Turkey, Istanbul – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was planned by Saudi officials days in advance.
Addressing the ruling AK party lawmakers in the capital Ankara, Erdogan detailed Khashoggi’s disappearance and murder, but stopped short of accusing Saudi royals for the “savage” killing that has caused global outrage.
“On the 28 of September Khashoggi arrived at the Saudi Arabian consulate for him to sort out his wedding paperwork,” Erdogan said during the speech in Turkish parliament.
“It seems that at that time they [Saudi Arabian officials] started to plan a roadmap for his murder,” adding that some officials left Turkey and travelled to Saudi Arabia, “indicating they planned the murder”.
Erdogan called the killing as ‘political murder’, urging that crime partners in other countries should be included in investigation.
In the wake of intense global pressure, Saudi Arabia admitted last week that Khashoggi was killed inside its Istanbul consulate on October 2 as a result of a “fistfight” during an interrogation.
The Turkish leader called Khashoggi’s killing “savage”, adding that Turkey will continue its investigation until all questions have been answered.
“Why did they [the Saudi team] come to Istanbul, on instruction by whom,” Erdogan said, adding that Saudi Arabia should make clear why Saudi Arabia did not let investigators into the consulate until days later.
Galip Dalay, visiting scholar at University of Oxford, told Al Jazeera that Erdogan’s speech about the case is important for several reasons.
“The most important thing is that Erdogan confirmed everything we sort of heard through other channels. However, now it’s no longer attributed to unnamed Turkish officials, but it’s the President of Turkey who has confirmed what has happened,” Dalay said.
Where is the body?
Erdogan also demanded answers on what happened to Khashoggi’s body, mentioning reports that a local cooperator allegedly disposed of Khashoggi’s body.
“Where is the body? There are claims his body has been given to a local person, but who is this local person,” Erdogan asked.
“Nobody is allowed to think this case will come to an end without answering all these questions,” he added.
The Turkish president also said Saudi Arabia was taking the right steps by working with Ankara on the investigation and arresting 18 people, 15 of which travelled to Istanbul on the day Khashoggi was murdered.
Dalay, who is also a non-resident fellow at Brookings Institution Doha, said Erdogan made a “distinction between King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman”.
“Everything that Erdogan provided pointed towards MBS without naming the crown prince specifically,” adding that Erdogan was clearly trying to prevent a full-blown crisis between Ankara and Riyadh.
Khashoggi, 59, a Washington Post columnist and critic of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate on October 2.
So far, Erdogan had remained largely silent on the case, although Turkish officials have leaked information detailing a 15-member Saudi hit team that probably carried out the killing.
Saudi authorities arrested 18 people in connection with the killing and fired top security officials considered close to bin Salman, widely known as MBS.
Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi’s body was cut up, but the Saudi official claimed it was rolled up in a rug and given to a “local cooperator” for disposal.
On Sunday, speaking in an exclusive interview with Fox News, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Khashoggi’s killing inside the Saudi consulate was “a terrible tragedy” and that Mohammed bin Salman had nothing to do with it.
Taha Ozhan, research director at the Ankara Institute, told Al Jazeera that he thought Erdogan was taking the right steps.
“The Saudis know very well what Turkey knows, and what Erdogan has been doing is the right thing, namely asking the Saudis for full cooperation in this case.”