Jamal Khashoggi audio: US requests recording evidence from Turkey of Journalist’s Killing

The Guardian – By Julian Borger/Washington and Bethan McKernan/Istanbul – Thu 18 Oct 2018

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Photo: Trump, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Salman and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi with their hands on a basketball-sized glowing orb to “inaugurate The Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology in Riyadh.” Placing their hands on the luminescent globe was a symbolic gesture for a video about the new center, according to the Saudi Gazette.

Donald Trump says the US has asked Turkey for an audio recording of Jamal Khashoggi’s death which reportedly proves he was brutally tortured before his premeditated murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Turkish officials said the audio recording had been handed over to the US and Saudi Arabia. But on Wednesday, Trump told reporters: “We’ve asked for it … if it exists” – before adding that it “probably does” exist.

Trump had previously suggested he believes the denials of responsibility from the Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and warned against a rush to judgement.

On Wednesday evening, the Washington Post published Khashoggi’s final column for the paper under the headline Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression. Karen Attiah, the global opinions editor, wrote in an introduction: “I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen.”

On Wednesday, Trump denied he was covering up for the Saudi royals but at the same time pointed to their importance as strategic and commercial partners.

“I’m not giving cover at all. And with that being said, Saudi Arabia has been a very important ally of ours in the Middle East. We are stopping Iran,” he told reporters.

But Trump’s defence of the Saudi royals has become increasingly difficult as Turkish government leaks and press reports have revealed more details about the grisly nature of Khashoggi’s fate and the involvement of Saudi operatives close to the Saudi crown prince.

The evidence, if confirmed, would also undermine any Saudi attempt to claim that Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation gone wrong, carried out by rogue elements in the Saudi intelligence and security services. Multiple reports have suggested that Riyadh was contemplating putting out a narrative along those lines.

According to an account in the pro-government daily newspaper Yeni ?afak, and a later report citing Turkish officials by the New York Times, the audio recording proves that Khashoggi was seized as soon as he entered the office of the Saudi consul, Mohammad al-Otaibi, on 2 October.

The dissident journalist was beaten and had his fingers cut off, according to the news account. Otaibi asked for the torture to be done outside his office, saying: “You will put me in trouble.”

“If you want to live when you come back to Arabia, shut up,” the consul was told by a Saudi hit team who had flown to Istanbul hours before Khashoggi’s planned visit to the consulate, where he had expected to pick up legal papers he needed to get married.

Khashoggi was beheaded and his body was cut up. A Saudi forensics specialist Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy can be heard putting on headphones to listen to music and telling others to do the same while the body was dismembered, according to the reports.

Investigators believe that after the killing, Khashoggi’s body was taken to the consul general’s house, where it was disposed of.

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Photo: Mike Pompeo with Erdogan on Wednesday. Photograph: Us Department Of State Handout/EPA.

Police set up barricades outside the residence on Tuesday evening to carry out a planned search of the premises. Under the Vienna convention, diplomatic premises are considered foreign soil and Turkey needed the Saudis’ agreement. Turkish and Saudi investigators eventually entered the residence on Wednesday evening, according to reports.

On Thursday a Reuters witness said Turkish crime scene investigators had left the consulate itself after searching the premises and consular vehicles. During the inspection bright lights were used to illuminate the consulate’s garden, in what was the second search there this week.

Otaibi, the consul general, has not been seen in public since the scandal erupted and is said to have left Turkey on a commercial flight to Riyadh on Tuesday.

It is unclear how the Turkish authorities obtained audio recordings of the murder, but officials have briefed multiple news organisations on their macabre contents.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, initially refused to say whether he had heard the recordings at meetings at Istanbul airport on Wednesday morning with President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavu?o?lu. His spokeswoman later said that he had not.

In Washington, Donald Trump has come under increasing pressure for his defence of the Saudi regime, in the face of revulsion from top Republicans in the Senate.

In response to reporters’ questions about the case, Trump repeated past claims about US sales to Saudi Arabia, which have previously been shown to be vastly exaggerated.

“If you look at Saudi Arabia, they’re an ally, and they’re a tremendous purchaser of not only military equipment but other things,” he said. “When I went there, they committed to purchase $450bn worth of things, and $110bn worth of military. Those are the biggest orders in the history of this country, probably the history of the world.”

The $110bn figure has been shown to have been hugely inflated, apparently reflecting some arms deals done under the Obama administration, and some statements of intent from Riyadh, but very few – if any – new contracts. The Saudi government claimed at the time of Trump’s visit to Riyadh in May 2017 that the two countries would do $380bn in total business together, but that also appeared to be an aspirational figure.

Trump has denied any personal financial relationship with the Saudi monarchy but in the past he has sold a yacht and apartments for millions of dollars to Saudi customers and Saudis continue to use his hotels.

The president insisted he was determined to get to the bottom of the Khashoggi case.

“I want to find out what happened, where is the fault, and we will probably know that by the end of the week. But Mike Pompeo is coming back, we’re gonna have a long talk,” Trump said.

Read entire article here

Posted by Teri Perticone

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