Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that the killing of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a premeditated act, and that all those responsible, including whoever ordered the operation, should be punished.
In an address to his country’s parliament, Erdogan gave details about what happened starting the day before Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He said multiple teams flew to Istanbul to meet Khashoggi at the diplomatic outpost and removed the hard drive from the site’s surveillance system.
Erdogan said Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, waited outside for hours before contacting Turkish authorities to say Khashoggi was being held against his will and was in danger.
From there, the investigation was slow, with Erdogan citing the diplomatic protections in place at the consulate. But he said Turkish police were certain Khashoggi had not left the building on his own, as Saudi Arabia first claimed.
The Turkish leader stressed the need for his police and intelligence services to conduct a thorough probe, both to avoid falsely accusing anyone and to fulfill a responsibility to the international community.
Saudi Arabia admitted last week that Khashoggi did in fact die inside the consulate, initially saying that happened after a fight, then later changing to say he died in a chokehold to prevent him from leaving the building to call for help.
Erdogan said Tuesday that Saudi Arabia took an important step by admitting the killing took place, but that he expects the country’s leaders to hold all those involved responsible, no matter their rank. He said blame cannot only be put on some intelligence agents, and he suggested any trials take place in Istanbul because that is where Khashoggi died.
Erdogan finished his speech with a series of outstanding questions about the case, including where Khashoggi’s body is located, who instructed the Saudi team to go to Istanbul, and why Saudi Arabia gave shifting answers about what happened.
The various explanations have been met with skepticism from the international community and allegations Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the country’s de facto ruler — ordered Khashoggi be killed.
New surveillance video released Monday from Istanbul appears to show a Saudi agent wearing Khashoggi’s clothing and leaving Riyadh’s consulate on October 2 in an apparent attempt to cover up his killing by showing he had left the diplomatic outpost alive.
The video was taken by Turkish law enforcement and shown Monday on CNN.
The 59-year-old Khashoggi had been living in the United States in self-imposed exile while he wrote columns for The Washington Post that were critical of the Saudi crown prince and Riyadh’s involvement in the conflict in Yemen.
Ahead of Erdogan’s speech, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday that he was “not satisfied” with what he has heard, but that he expected to find out a lot more in the next few days.
“I have a great group people in Turkey right now and a great group of people in Saudi Arabia. We will know very soon,” Trump said.
Trump has said there would be consequences if Saudi Arabia was found to be responsible for Khashoggi’s death, but also made it clear he has no intention of doing anything that would affect lucrative arms deals.
“I don’t want to lose all of that investment that’s being made in our country,” he said Monday.
U.S. media reports said CIA Director Gina Haspel left the United States on Monday to go to Turkey to meet with officials there who are investigating Khashoggi’s death. The Trump administration did not publicly say anything about her trip.
In another development Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met the Saudi crown prince in Riyadh. The Saudi foreign ministry posted a photograph of the meeting on its Twitter account. Mnuchin canceled his plans to attend a three-day investment conference hosted by Saudi Arabia beginning on Tuesday, but said he would meet the crown prince to discuss counterterrorism efforts.