Khashoggi’s ‘savage’ murder WAS pre-planned, declares Erdogan in explosive speech

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Jamal Khashoggi’s ‘savage’ murder was pre-planned by a Saudi hit squad who disabled CCTV at the Istanbul consulate before killing the writer and giving his body to a local fixer, Turkey’s president has claimed.

In an explosive speech, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there were strong signs a Saudi team plotted to kill the dissident journalist days before his death on October 2.

Officials including ‘intelligence, security and forensic personnel’ were seen entering the building where Khashoggi disappeared, Erdogan said, while some were seen exploring a nearby forest beforehand.

The revelation will fuel speculation the team was scouting an area where they could potentially ditch a body.

Erdogan called for 18 people arrested in Saudi Arabia to be tried in Istanbul, but said blaming some intelligence members for the killing will not satisfy Turkey ‘or the international community’.

Speaking to members of his AK Party in parliament, he also questioned why a corpse had yet to be discovered and called on Saudi Arabia to reveal the identity of a ‘local cooperator’ who purportedly took the body.

The majority of his claims have already been leaked, but for Erdogan to make the revelations in a speech to parliament raises the stakes in the region.

Jamal Khashoggi’s ‘savage’ murder was pre-planned by a Saudi hit squad who disabled CCTV at the Istanbul consulate before killing the writer and giving his body to a local fixer, Turkey’s president has claimed

It comes as scepticism intensified about Saudi Arabia’s account that Khashoggi (pictured) died accidentally in its consulate in Istanbul

The 64-year-old’s speech was previously pitched as revealing the ‘naked truth’ about Khashoggi’s slaying. Instead  served merely to put a named source to information already circulated by anonymous officials.

Just hours earlier, a major Saudi investment forum opened under the heavy shadow of the murder after key delegates pulled out. It comes as scepticism intensified about Saudi Arabia’s account that Khashoggi died accidentally in its consulate in Istanbul.

The murder of the Washington Post contributor has damaged the international reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has spearheaded a reform drive in the kingdom.

Erdogan said three operatives arrived in Istanbul the day before Khashoggi’s killing on an apparent reconnaissance mission. The next day 15 people came to the consulate.

‘Why did these 15 people meet in Istanbul on the day of the murder? We are seeking answers to this. Who are these people receiving orders from?’ Erdogan said.

‘My demand is that 18 people be tried in Istanbul,’ Erdogan said in his speech, referring to 18 people including security officials who have already been detained by Riyadh.

He added that ‘all those who played a role in the murder’ had to face punishment.

Erdogan said that the murder was ‘planned’ days in advance according to a ‘roadmap’ set up by a Saudi team who were sent to Istanbul for the purpose. The surveillance system at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was deactivated on purpose, he said.

‘First they (the Saudis implicated) removed the hard disc from the camera system,’ Erdogan said. ‘This is a political murder,’ he added.

In an explosive speech, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there were strong signs a Saudi team plotted to kill the dissident journalist days before his death on October 2

But Erdogan added he still wanted answers on numerous issues including ‘who gave orders’ to the team and where the corpse is.

Erdogan did not mention Prince Mohammed by name in the speech but said he was confident of the full cooperation of his father Saudi King Salman in the probe.

‘To blame such an incident on a handful of security and intelligence members would not satisfy us or the international community,’ Erdogan said.

‘Saudi Arabia has taken an important step by admitting the murder. As of now we expect of them to openly bring to light those responsible – from the highest ranked to the lowest – and to bring them to justice,’ the Turkish president said.

‘All evidence gathered shows that Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a savage murder. To cover up such a savagery would hurt the human conscience,’ he said.

After initially denying any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate, the kingdom gave a new story on Saturday, saying he died in a ‘fistfight.’

Saudi Arabia said 18 Saudis were arrested and that several top intelligence officials were fired over the killing, but critics alleged that the punishment was designed to absolve Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s heir-apparent, of any responsibility.

Erdogan earlier promised the case ‘will be revealed in all its nakedness’ in a speech to ruling party members.

Turkey’s foreign minister, meanwhile, said his country would cooperate with international bodies if they were to launch an independent probe into the Khashoggi’s killing.

This morning, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said the investigation into the killing will produce the truth about what happened. Adel al-Jubeir also pledged that mechanisms will be put in place so that ‘something like this can never happen again’

A tough critic of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Khashoggi, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate (pictured) in Istanbul on October 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage

In an interview with state-run Anadolu Agency, Mevlut Cavusoglu also said Turkey has not shared evidence concerning his death at the Saudi consulate with any country but added that there may have been ‘an exchange of views between intelligence organisations.’

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that he is not satisfied with the explanations he’s heard about the killing of Khashoggi and is awaiting reports from U.S. personnel returning from the region.

‘We’re going to get to the bottom of it. We have people over in Saudi Arabia now. We have top intelligence people in Turkey. They’re coming back either tonight or tomorrow,’ Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for a political rally in Texas.

A high-profile economic forum in Saudi Arabia began Tuesday in Riyadh, the kingdom’s first major event on the world stage since Khashoggi’s killing.

The Future Investment Initiative forum, the brainchild of Prince Mohammed, is aimed at drawing more foreign investment into the kingdom and helping create desperately needed jobs for its youthful population.

Prince Mohammed was not at the forum when it started.

On Monday, leaked surveillance video showed a man strolling out of the diplomatic post hours after Khashoggi disappeared into the consulate, apparently wearing the columnist’s clothes as part of a macabre deception to sow confusion over his fate.

The new video broadcast by CNN, as well as a pro-government Turkish newspaper’s report that a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage made four calls to the royal’s office from the consulate around the same time, put more pressure on the kingdom.

US President Donald Trump (right) said he was ‘not satisfied’ with Riyadh’s explanation of the Washington Post contributor’s death in a case has tarnished the image of powerful Saudi Crown Prince (left)

Meanwhile, Turkish crime-scene investigators swarmed a garage Monday night in Istanbul where a Saudi consular vehicle had been parked.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, meanwhile, said Tuesday the investigation into the killing of Khashoggi would produce the truth about what happened and that his country was committed to ensuring ‘that the investigation is thorough and complete and that the truth is revealed and that those responsible will be held to account.’

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, in Indonesia, also pledged that mechanisms will be put in place so that ‘something like this can never happen again.’

The murder of the Washington Post contributor has damaged the international reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has spearheaded a reform drive in the kingdom.

He who was credited with key changes  including giving women the right to drive but is now accused of having ordered Khashoggi’s murder – a claim Riyadh denies.

Reports in pro-government Turkish media have suggested he was slowly strangled in an operation by a 15 person assassination team. But these claims have yet to be confirmed on the record and Khashoggi’s remains have also not been found.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin would not export arms to Riyadh ‘in the current situation,’ despite Germany’s approval last month of 416 million euros’ ($480 million) worth of arms exports in 2018.

Despite also pulling out of the Davos-style summit, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met the crown prince behind closed doors for bilateral talks in Riyadh today. CIA Director Gina Haspel, meanwhile, headed for Turkey, although details of her trip were not immediately clear.

Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, (pictured) said he had handed her his two mobile phones and left instructions that she should wait for him and call an aide to Turkey’s president if he did not reappear

CCTV images have emerged showing a Saudi intelligence officer dressed in a fake beard and Jamal Khashoggi’s clothes and glasses (left) on the day the journalist disappeared

A car belonging to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was found in the Sultangazi district of the city today. Broadcaster NTV and other local media said that police would search the vehicle

White House advisor and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, believed to have close ties with the crown prince, said he had urged him to be ‘fully transparent’, stressing that ‘the world is watching’.

Speaking in Jakarta, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir vowed ‘a thorough and complete investigation’. He said procedures would be put in place to ‘ensure that something like this can never happen again.’

Omer Celik, spokesman of Erdogan’s ruling party, said the killing ‘was planned in an extremely savage manner,’ and that ‘there has been a lot of effort to whitewash this’.

Some of the consulate employees who gave testimony to Turkish prosecutors said they had not been given holiday on the day that Khashoggi was murdered, despite reports in local media, and they finished work at 3.30pm.

The employees were also quoted as saying that they did not ‘see or hear’ any sounds related to a fight despite Riyadh’s claims that Khashoggi died during a ‘brawl’.

Erdogan has so far stopped short of directly pointing the finger at Riyadh. Analysts say he preferred to authorise the leak of incriminating information to pro-government media to put pressure on the kingdom.

He has twice held telephone talks with King Salman on the crisis, interpreted by some as a bid to sideline the ageing Saudi monarch’s son Prince Mohammed.

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