A Turkish newspaper has published an account of the alleged murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, as America’s top diplomat arrived for talks over the Washington Post columnist’s disappearance.
The report by Yeni Safak adds to increasing pressure on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Khashoggi, who vanished on 2 October while visiting the consulate to pick up paperwork he needed to get married.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo today held separate meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for around 40 minutes each in the Turkish capital, Ankara.
Pompeo met Saudi King Salman and his son, the 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, yesterday. Before leaving Riyadh, he told reporters the Saudi leaders “made no exceptions on who they would hold accountable”.
He added: “They made a commitment to hold anyone connected to any wrongdoing that may be found accountable for that, whether they are a senior officer or official.”
No major decisions are made outside the ultra-conservative kingdom’s ruling Al Saud family.
Khashoggi had fled the country last year amid the rise of Prince Mohammed, about whom he wrote critically in the Washington Post.
The Yeni Safak report cited what it described as an audio recording of Khashoggi’s death, which it said showed the writer was tortured.
The newspaper said Saudi consul general Mohammed al-Otaibi could be heard on the tape saying: “If you want to live, be quiet.”
It also said he could be heard telling those allegedly torturing Khashoggi: “Do this outside, you’re going to get me in trouble.”
The newspaper said one of the Saudis torturing Khashoggi replied: “Shut up if you want to live when you return to (Saudi) Arabia.”
Saudi officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment from the Associated Press (AP) news agency. Turkish media reported that al-Otaibi left Turkey yesterday afternoon.
Security services in Turkey have used pro-government media to leak details of Khashoggi’s case, adding to pressure on the kingdom.
US President Donald Trump, who earlier warned of “severe punishment” if the kingdom was found culpable, criticised the allegations against Saudi Arabia and compared them to the accusations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
“Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Trump told the AP in an interview.
That attitude did not appear to be shared with Congress, as one prominent Republican senator said he believed that the Crown Prince, widely known as MBS, had Khashoggi “murdered”.
“This guy has got to go,” said senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina.
“Saudi Arabia, if you’re listening, there are a lot of good people you can choose, but MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself.”
A high-level Turkish official yesterday told the AP that police found “certain evidence” of Khashoggi’s murder at the consulate.
Police plan to search the Saudi consul general’s home, as well as some of the country’s diplomatic vehicles, Cavusoglu said.
Leaked surveillance video shows that diplomatic cars travelled to the consul general’s home shortly after Khashoggi went into the consulate.
In the statement, the G7 foreign ministers said: “We, the G7 foreign ministers, of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the High Representative of the European Union, affirm our commitment to defending freedom of expression and protection of a free press.
“We remain very troubled by the disappearance of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Those bearing responsibility for his disappearance must be held to account.
“We encourage Turkish-Saudi collaboration and look forward to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia conducting a thorough, credible, transparent, and prompt investigation, as announced.”
Picture: Reuters/Osman Orsal