Saudi ‘cover-up team’ sent to dispose of Khashoggi body: report
A Turkish newspaper report suggests a Saudi investigative group included two experts who attempted to erase evidence.
Saudi Arabia deployed a chemist and toxicology expert to Istanbul after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in an attempt to cover up evidence of the killing, according to a Turkish newspaper.
Pro-government daily Sabah reported on Monday that Saudi Arabia sent an 11-member “cover-up team” to Istanbul on October 11, nine days after the Washington Post contributor vanished after entering the Saudi consulate to obtain paperwork for his marriage.
The paper said chemist Ahmad Abdulaziz al-Janobi and toxicology expert Khaled Yahya al-Zahrani were among “the so-called investigative team”, which visited the consulate every day until October 17, before leaving Turkey on October 20.
The newest details may explain why Saudi Arabia did not allow Turkish police to search the consulate until October 15.
Turkish authorities have released gruesome details of a killing that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said was a targeted hit.
While Riyadh officials have admitted the murder was planned, they have so far declined to release details of the whereabouts of the 59-year-old journalist’s missing body.
Turkey‘s chief prosecutor said last week that Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the consulate and also confirmed the body was dismembered.
Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Erdogan, hinted in an article published on Friday that the body may even have been dissolved in acid.
In an editorial published in The Washington Post, Erdogan accused authorities in Riyadh of refusing to answer key questions about the murder, despite their arrest of 18 suspects a fortnight ago.
He said the order to murder the journalist came from “the highest levels” of the Saudi government, adding that he did “not believe for a second” that King Salman was to blame.
But he pointedly failed to absolve Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of responsibility for unleashing a “death squad” against the outspoken Saudi journalist.
The murder has badly tainted the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
Unwilling to ‘genuinely cooperate’
Last week, Saudi Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb met Turkish authorities in Istanbul but refused to share information from Riyadh’s own investigation, according to Turkish officials.
A senior Turkish official said the Saudi officials that appeared unwilling to “genuinely cooperate” with the investigation.
“The Saudi officials seemed primarily interested in finding out what evidence the Turkish authorities had against the perpetrators,” the official told the AFP news agency on the condition of anonymity.
“We did not get the impression that they were keen on genuinely cooperating with the investigation.”
On Monday, Turkish Vice President Fuad Oktay said that reports of Khashoggi’s body being dissolved in acid need to be investigated.
Oktay told Turkey’s Anadolu news agency it was now accepted that Khashoggi was targeted in a premeditated murder.
“The question now is who gave the orders. This is what we are seeking answers to now,” Oktay said.
“Another question is where the body is … There are reports of [the body] being dissolved with acid now. All of these need to be looked at.”
According to Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Istanbul, Saudi investigators had repeatedly asked Turkish officials for access to Khashoggi’s phone while they were investigating the case in Istanbul.
Similarly, on Sunday a Turkish security source told Al Jazeera that audio recordings from inside the consulate indicate that Khashoggi’s murderers were trying to find his phone immediately after killing him.
Prior to entering the consulate, Khashoggi had given both of his mobile phones to his fiance Hatice Cengiz as she waited outside.