Turkey on Wednesday demanded the arrest of two relatives of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in relation with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, adding pressure on the Saudi dauphin accused by influential US senators on Tuesday.
According to state-run Anadolu news agency, Turkish justice has issued arrest warrants for Ahmed al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, acceding to the Istanbul Attorney General’s request for “strong” suspicion of ” be part of the planners “of the murder.
General al-Assiri, former deputy chief of Saudi intelligence, and al-Qahtani, former media advisor to the royal court, are two members of the Saudi Crown Prince’s close guard.
They were removed from office on 20 October as a diplomatic storm rained down on Ryad after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, which greatly tarnished the image of the petro-monarchy, including that of Mohammed bin Salman, nicknamed “MBS“.
Khashoggi, a Saudi editorial critic Ryad wrote for the Washington Post, was killed on October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he had gone to make administrative formalities.
While MBS vehemently denies any connection to the killing, the pro-government Turkish press and officials on condition of anonymity accuse him of being behind the murder.
And while US President Donald Trump has become an unwavering ally of MBS, Republican senators said Tuesday, after being informed of the CIA’s findings, have “no doubt” about the fact he had ” ordered “the killing of Khashoggi.
MBS “is crazy, he is dangerous, and he has put this relationship (with the United States) in jeopardy” because he is not “reliable,” dropped Lindsey Graham, a Senate heavyweight and close to the US president.
– Call for “transparency” –
After initially claiming that Khashoggi had left his consulate alive in Istanbul, Saudi Arabia finally acknowledged, under international pressure, that the journalist had been killed and dismembered inside the diplomatic representation.
The Saudi court has opened an investigation and has said it is ready to cooperate with Turkish investigators conducting their own investigations. But since the beginning of the case, an extreme mistrust reigns on both sides.
“To date, we could not get any evidence from Saudi Arabia regarding the investigation,” said Wednesday the head of Turkish diplomacy Mevlüt Cavusoglu. “They have to be transparent, they share what their investigation reveals,” he added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called for the extradition of suspects arrested by Saudi Arabia, but his request has remained a dead letter to date. Ryad insists that any trial should be held in Saudi Arabia.
Last month, the Saudi Attorney General announced that among the 21 suspects detained in connection with the murder investigation, 11 had been charged. He required the death penalty for five of them.
According to reports by the Saudi authorities, al-Assiri ordered a team of 15 Saudi agents to bring “Khashoggi” back to Saudi Arabia “willingly or by force”. Once there, the leader of the commando would have decided to kill the journalist.
As for al-Qahtani, he is one of the 17 Saudi officials targeted by sanctions announced in mid-November by the US Treasury, “for his role in the preparation and execution of the operation” against the journalist.
– Sean Penn in Istanbul –
For a senior official close to the Turkish investigation, the request of the Istanbul prosecutor’s office for the two Saudi suspects illustrates the fact that, in the spirit of Ankara, “the Saudi authorities will not act formally against these two people”.
In an interview with the Turkish press this week, President Erdogan lamented that several questions remained unanswered, starting with the location of Khashoggi’s body.
Turkish investigators searched the Saudi Consulate’s consulate and residence in Istanbul, as well as two villas in northwestern Turkey. In vain.
Sign of the interest that this case continues to generate more than two months after the murder, the American actor Sean Penn was Wednesday in Istanbul to work on a documentary on the Khashoggi case.
According to the images broadcast by the Turkish media, the two-time Oscar winner visited the Saudi consulate with his film crew.