It’s been a few days since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dropped another bombshell about the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, whose death at the hands of a 15-man hit squad dispatched from Riyadh mushroomed into an international incident of epic proportions this month, on the way to undermining Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s grip power.
The Saudis have been at pains to explain Khashoggi’s death and thanks to the haphazard fashion in which the operation was conducted, the monarchy has been forced to change their story on a number of occasions as new evidence continues to surface. Initially, Riyadh claimed Khashoggi exited the consulate unharmed shortly after entering. That eventually morphed into a story about a “fist fight” gone wrong and, ultimately, an admission that the murder was in fact premeditated.
Part of the “fist fight” story involved the contention that Khashoggi’s assailants employed a “choke hold” in an effort to subdue their target. Well on Wednesday, Turkish prosecutors say Khashoggi was either “strangled” or “suffocated” as soon as he stepped into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. His body was them immediately dismembered, the prosecutor said. Here’s the official statement:
In accordance with plans made in advance, the victim, Jamal Khashoggi, was choked to death immediately after entering the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul on October 2. The victim’s body was dismembered and destroyed following his death by suffocation — again, in line with advance plans.
This marks the first time Turkish authorities have officially offered a detailed account of the incident, although the steady leak of information to the press in October painted a particularly grisly picture of how Khashoggi met his end.
Istanbul’s chief prosecutor, Irfan Fidan, says Ankara has asked the Saudis to divulge the location of Khashoggi’s remains. His comments came after Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb left Istanbul for Riyadh. According to Fidan, al-Mojeb would not identify who in Turkey collaborated with the the Saudis for the operation.
On source who spoke to the Washington Post (where Khashoggi was a columnist), said the following about al-Mojeb’s trip to Turkey:
Saudi officials seemed primarily interested in finding out what evidence the Turkish authorities had against the perpetrators. We did not get the impression that they were keen on genuinely cooperating with the investigation.
Here’s a not-at-all nefarious-looking picture of al-Mojeb, departing the Saudi consulate in Istanbul:
(Can Erok / AP)
You can definitely trust him to get to the bottom of this.
The announcement ratchets up the pressure on the Saudi monarchy at a time when reports indicate King Salman is taking a more active role in governing following the international backlash against his favorite son, who everyone knows was likely behind the extrajudicial killing.
Ultimately, the ball is in Donald Trump’s court. Erdogan’s goal here would appear to be seeing the Crown Prince replaced as heir to the Saudi throne, but that still seems exceedingly unlikely in the absence of pressure from Washington.