Exerting more pressure on Saudi authorities on its alleged role in killing dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Ankara ‘cannot remain silent to such an incident”.
While speaking to reporters on his return from Hungary on thursday, Erdogan expressed disbelief at Saudi claims that Khashoggi disappeared without being recorded by security cameras after leaving the mission.
He said, “How is it possible for a consulate, an embassy not to have security camera systems? Is it possible for the Saudi Arabian consulate where the incident occurred not to have camera systems? If a bird flew, if a mosquito appeared, these systems would catch them and [I believe] they would have the most advanced of systems.”
Meanwhile Turkish investigators have claimed that a consular source heard screams and sounds of struggle, obviously while Khashoggi was facing the death squad.
The Aljazeera correspondent Jamal Elshayyal reports from Istanbul that the investigators have heard testimony from a source who was inside the Saudi consulate at the time of Khashoggi’s disappearance. He has reportedly claimed to have heard sounds of a struggle.
Elshayyal said, “I have learned earlier that, among the evidence with the investigation is testimony from inside the consulate at the time that Jamal [Khashoggi] was there, which includes sounds of loud screams and shouting, as well as calls for help and the sound of a struggle and then sudden silence.”
He reports that despite earlier reports to the contrary, Turkish authorities have yet to be given permission to search the Saudi consulate “in the way or with the team that they would like”.
Turkish authorities have also requested to search a number of vehicles registered to the consulate and home of the consul general, after a van with tinted windows was seen leaving the consulate and driving to the home a couple of hours after Khashoggi entered the mission.
In another development, the designations of the 15-member Saudi ‘assassination squad’ are revealed by the investigators. Authorities in Ankara believe that they carried out Khashoggi’s assassination.
It is said that the head of the forensic unit in the Saudi defence forces, a former head of intelligence at the Saudi Arabian embassy in London and several special forces officers were among the group, which flew into Istanbul on October 2, the day when Khashoggi disappeared.
The investigators have found that all 15 men had booked four nights in two hotels situated near the Saudi consulate but left Turkey less than 24 hours after arriving.
The Washington Post and New York Times have reported that Saudi Royal Court: i.e. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself ordered an operation targeting Jamal Khashoggi.
Earlier US intelligence intercepts have also proved that Saudi officials were heard discussing a plan to lure Khashoggi from the US, where he resides, back to Saudi Arabia where he would be detained.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump, while responding on a telephonic interview with Fox News Channel on Wednesday as to whether the Saudis were responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance, has said: “I guess you would have to say so far it’s looking a little bit like that, and we’re going to have to see.”
Trump also expressed reluctance to act on calls to withhold US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, saying that US jobs and economic strength are tied to such trade deals.
“Part of that is what we’re doing with our defense systems and everybody’s wanting them. And frankly I think that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country. I mean, you’re affecting us and, you know, they’re always quick to jump that way,” he said.
In a related development, more than 20 Republican and Democratic senators, in a joint letter to President Trump have instructed to order an investigation into Khasoggi’s disappearance under legislation that authorises imposing sanctions on perpetrators of extrajudicial killings.
The Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, has described the allegations as “malicious leaks and grim rumours” and said the kingdom is “gravely concerned” about Khashoggi.
Earlier, Saudi authorities have claimed that Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after entering. However, they have failed to provide video footage showing his departure.
Besides Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and senior adviser Jared Kushner – Donald Trump’s son-in-law – spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Khashoggi’s disappearance.