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Friday 20 September 2019

Saudi team sent to aid Turkey probe ‘covered up journalist death evidence’

The sons of Jamal Khashoggi, meanwhile, have called for the return of his remains so he can be buried.

The entrance to Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)
The entrance to Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

By Suzan Fraser

Members of a team from Saudi Arabia sent to help investigate the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi worked instead to remove evidence, a senior Turkish official has said.

The official confirmed a report in Turkey’s Sabah newspaper that an 11-member team of Saudi investigators that arrived in Turkey nine days after Mr Khashoggi was killed to take part in a joint Turkish-Saudi probe included experts on chemistry and toxicology who were reportedly charged with obfuscating the evidence.

The official said Turkey believes that two members of the team “came to Turkey for the sole purpose of covering up evidence” before Turkish police were allowed to search the Saudi Consulate, where Mr Khashoggi was killed on October 2 after he entered to collect a document he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee.

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Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb leaves his country’s consulate in Istanbul (Can Erok/AP)

The official said the fact that a clean-up team was dispatched suggests that Mr Khashoggi’s killing “was within the knowledge of top Saudi officials”.

The unnamed official also confirmed the Sabah report which identified the two experts as Ahmed Abdulaziz Al-Janobi and Khaled Yahya al-Zahrani.

The information was the latest in a series of leaks from Turkish officials apparently aimed at keeping up the pressure on Saudi Arabia and ensuring that the killing is not covered up.

Istanbul’s chief prosecutor, who is leading the investigation, announced last week that Mr Khashoggi, who lived in exile in the United States, was strangled immediately after he entered the consulate as part of a premeditated killing and that his body was dismembered before being removed.

All what we want right now is to bury him in Al-Baqi (cemetery) in Medina with the rest of his family Salah Khashoggi

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an op-ed in the Washington Post last week that the order to kill Mr Khashoggi came from the highest level of the Saudi government and added that the international community had the responsibility to “reveal the puppet masters” behind the death.

Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 suspects who have been detained in Saudi Arabia, so they can be put on trial in Turkey.

They include 15 members of an alleged Saudi “hit squad” that Turkey says was sent to Istanbul to kill the Washington Post columnist who had written critically of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia acknowledged last month that Turkish evidence indicates that Mr Khashoggi’s killing at the consulate was premeditated, shifting its explanation in an apparent effort to ease international outrage over the death.

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A Saudi Arabia’s flag flies over the country’s consulate in Istanbul (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

On Saturday, Sabah newspaper, which is close to the Turkish government, said Mr Khashoggi’s body, which still has not been found, was dismembered and removed from the Saudi Consulate in five suitcases.

A senior official of Turkey’s ruling party, and a friend of Mr Khashoggi’s, has suggested his body may have been dissolved in acid or other chemicals.

Turkey’s vice president, Fuat Oktay, told state-run Anadolu Agency that such reports need to be investigated.

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Presidential Press Service/AP)

Meanwhile, two of Mr Khashoggi’s sons appealed for his remains to be returned so that he may be buried in Saudi Arabia.

In an interview with CNN on Sunday, the sons also said they hoped he did not suffer when he was killed.

“All what we want right now is to bury him in Al-Baqi (cemetery) in Medina with the rest of his family,” Salah Khashoggi said.

“I talked about that with the Saudi authorities and I just hope that it happens soon,” he said.

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