A senior Turkish official said Monday that investigators sent by Saudi Arabia to help Turkey investigate the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi actively worked to cover up evidence instead.
Two of the team of 11 investigators, which included chemistry and toxicology specialists, “came to Turkey for the sole purpose of covering up evidence,” said the official.
The team was sent nine days after Khashoggi’s October 2 killing and before Turkish officials could investigate the scene of the crime, the Saudi consulate, proving the murder “was within the knowledge of top Saudi officials,” the official added.
The Washington Post columnist was murdered after he went into the Saudi consulate in Turkey to finalize divorce paperwork so he could marry his fiance. Khashoggi, a former advisor to Saudi intelligence, had been living in the U.S. in voluntary exile after he began heavily criticizing Saudi Arabia’s royal family and government.
“We know the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an op-ed for the Washington Post last week, adding that “we must reveal the identities of the puppetmasters behind Khashoggi’s killing,” and demanding that Khashoggi’s body to be recovered.
Government-linked Turkish media reported that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered and removed from the consulate.
Saudi Arabia’s explanation of the killing has gone through a metamorphosis from denying the government knew anything about the murder to acknowledging that it was premeditated but claiming the killers were rogue operatives.
Turkey has requested to be allowed to prosecute 18 suspects, including 15 alleged members of the team of killers, who are currently detained in Saudi Arabia.
The international heat on Saudi Arabia over the murder has complicated the relationship between the U.S. and the country, a longtime ally.
President Trump has rejected the possibility of cancelling billion-dollar arms deals with Saudi Arabia over the situation, but did warn of “very severe” consequences if the Saudi government is found to be responsible for Khashoggi’s death.