Saudi investigators removed evidence in Kashoggi murder cover-up attempt: Turkish officials

Saudi investigators removed evidence in Kashoggi murder cover-up attempt: Turkish officials
Saudi investigators travelled to Turkey 'for the sole purpose of covering up evidence' of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder, a Turkish official has said.
3 min read
05 November, 2018
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul [AFP]

Members of an investigative team from Saudi Arabia sent to probe the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey worked instead to remove evidence of the murder, a senior Turkish official said on Monday.

The official confirmed a report in Turkey's pro-government Sabah newspaper that an 11-member team of Saudi investigators that arrived in Turkey nine days after Khashoggi was killed to take part in a joint Turkish-Saudi probe included experts on chemicals and toxicology, who were reportedly charged with obfuscating the evidence.

The official said Ankara believes that two members of the team "came to Turkey for the sole purpose of covering up evidence" before Turkish police were allowed to search the Saudi Consulate.

Khashoggi was killed in the diplomatic building on October 2 after he entered to collect a document he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee.

The official said the fact that a clean-up team was dispatched suggests that Khashoggi's killing "was within the knowledge of top Saudi officials." The official spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with government rules.

Istanbul's chief prosecutor, who is leading the investigation, announced last week that Khashoggi, who lived in exile in the United States, was strangled immediately after he entered the consulate as part of a premeditated killing and that his body was dismembered before being removed.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an op-ed in the Washington Post last week that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest level of the Saudi government and added that the international community had the responsibility to "reveal the puppet masters" behind the slaying.

Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 suspects who were detained in Saudi Arabia so they can be put on trial in Turkey. They include 15 members of an alleged Saudi "hit squad" that Turkey says was sent to Istanbul to kill the Washington Post columnist who had written critically of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

On Saturday, Sabah newspaper said Khashoggi's body - which still hasn't been found - was dismembered and removed from the Saudi Consulate in five suitcases.

A senior official of Turkey's ruling party - and a friend of Khashoggi's - has suggested his body may have been dissolved in acid or other chemicals.

Turkey's vice president, Fuat Oktay told state-run Anadolu Agency that such reports need to be investigated.

In an interview aired by CNN on Monday, Khashoggi's sons Salah and Abdullah made an emotional appeal for their father's body to be returned for burial.

"All what we want right now is to bury him in al-Baqi within Medina with the rest of his family," Salah said, referring to a revered cemetery in the Saudi holy city.

"I talked about that with the Saudi authorities and I just hope that it happens soon. I believe the search is ongoing and I'm really hopeful about that. It is an Islamic tradition, it is not only Islamic it is a basic humanitarian issue."

"We just need to make sure that he rests in peace," he added.

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