Turkish media broadcast images early Wednesday showing two Saudi operatives connected to the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi carrying what appeared to be large black cases, in what could be the first confirmation that Turks have surveillance footage showing The Washington Post columnist’s alleged executioners carrying away his remains.
The security camera images, broadcast by CNN Turk, were the latest in a series of media leaks by Turkish authorities that challenge Riyadh’s account of Khashoggi’s murder and subsequent cover-up, part of a campaign that has badly damaged Saudi Arabia’s credibility and reputation.
Saudi officials contend Khashoggi died accidentally in a physical confrontation during an unauthorised overseas kidnapping operation ordered and carried out by senior officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is scheduled to speak today at a major investment conference. They say the 59-year-old’s body was wrapped in a rug and disposed of by a local “collaborator” whom they have not identified
But many world leaders have rejected the Saudi explanation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the evidence collected shows the killing was “premeditated" in a speech before parliament on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, hours after CIA director Gina Haspel met with Turkish counterparts in Ankara about the Khashoggi murder, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced visa suspensions for Saudi royal court, foreign ministry, intelligence and other officials allegedly involved in the killing and subsequent cover-up, without identifying them. He also confirmed that Washington officials were considering slapping Saudi officials with sanctions under the Magnitsky Act which punishes human rights abusers.
President Trump has resisted calls by even his own Republican Party members to halt, suspend, or review weapons sales to Saudi over the killing but Germany has vowed to suspend arms transfers, and Canada, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands were under pressure to halt sales over the Khashoggi matter as well as concern about the years-long Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has brought the impoverished nation to the brink of mass starvation.
Meanwhile in Riyadh, the second day of a glitzy, high-powered economic summit dubbed 'Davos in the Desert' got underway with the absence of some Western officials and corporate leaders loathe to be associated with the Crown Prince at the moment but the presence of many other international executives, including the chairman of MasterCard, UK national Richard Haythornthwaite. Saudi media claimed $50 billion in energy and transport deals were signed during the conference’s first day, even as attendees condemned Khashoggi’s murder.
“Those partners who are here with us today, to continue their journey with us are certainly going to look back and find out how the lessons have been learned from the incident, but at the same time how committed the Kingdom is to its partners who stay the course,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told attendees.
In Turkey, the investigation into Mr Khashoggi’s death continues, with curious new clues turning up daily. Turkish police on Tuesday reportedly discovered clothes, a laptop, and other personal effects inside an abandoned diplomatic vehicle registered to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Photographs showed security forces searching through the 2011 black Mercedes-Benz with green consular registration plates. The vehicle was reportedly abandoned in an underground car park on Istanbul’s northern outskirts days after Khashoggi’s murder.
The car matched the description and plates of a vehicle seen at the Saudi consulate on the day of the 2 October killing at the hands of Saudi security and intelligence officials dispatched from Riyadh to confront the dissident. The daily Hurriyet, citing an employee of the car park, reported that the vehicle arrived at the lot on 7 October, driven by a consular official.
That same consular official then returned in a BMW on 18 October, placing three suitcases into the parked Mercedes before departing, the paper reported. Police found the vehicle on 22 October.
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