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Saudis tampered with consulate’s CCTV security cameras after Khashoggi killing: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows a Saudi flag flying over a CCTV camera at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 10, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Staff at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul tried to dismantle closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) of the premises in an attempt to help cover up the gruesome murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the diplomatic mission last month, a report says.

According to a report published by Turkey’s pro-government Sabah newspaper on Tuesday, the staff tried to rip out the camera inside the diplomatic mission in Istanbul on October 2, the day Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate.

It added that Saudis also had tried to tamper with cameras at the police security booth outside the building.

Khashoggi, 59, an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city to complete some paperwork for his forthcoming marriage.

However, as diplomatic pressure grew tremendously on Riyadh to give an account on the mysterious fate of its national, in an unexpected statement last month, Saudi Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb admitted that Khashoggi had been killed in a “premeditated” attack in the consulate.

Saudi authorities have so far said that they do not know the whereabouts of the journo’s body, which is widely believed to be dismembered or dissolved in acid, or both.

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Irfan Fidan said last week that the ill-fated journalist had been strangled upon his arrival in the consulate, and then his body was dismembered and destroyed.

The remarks bolstered Turkish investigators’ line of thought that the remains could have been disposed of at the nearby consul general’s house, dissolved in acid or dumped in a well on the property.

The gruesome crime has already caused an international uproar against Saudi Arabia, prompted a number of member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday to grill Saudi delegation, led by Bandar al-Aiban, head of the Human Rights Commission of the Arab kingdom, over the murder.

Separately on Monday, Sabah published a report, saying that Saudis had sent a two-man “clean-up” team to Istanbul to remove any evidence of Khashoggi killing.

It identified the men as chemicals expert Ahmad Abdulaziz al-Janobi and toxicology expert Khaled Yahya al-Zahrani, tasked with erasing evidence before Turkish investigators were given access to the Saudi consulate and consul’s residence.

Later on Monday, a Turkish senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the report in a brief interview with Reuters.

Turkey to share more evidence with public

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated that it was “obvious” that the so-called hit squad had been sent to Istanbul to murder Khashoggi.

Turkish authorities believe that a 15-person “hit squad” was sent from Saudi Arabia to Istanbul to kill the journo.

“We have to find out who gave these instructions. This is the simple question that we have put to the Saudis as well. We made it very public. It's an ongoing investigation,” Cavusoglu said, adding, “"Saudis proposed to have a joint working group and we accepted that but this working group should be a result-oriented one.”

He went on to say that Ankara had further evidence about the journo’s killing that it had yet to share with the public, adding that those details of the case would continue to be reported to the public until the probe was complete.

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the order to slay Khashoggi had been issued from “the highest levels” of the Saudi government, while he stressed that he did “not believe for a second” that Saudi King Salman had ordered such a gruesome crime.

Turkish media have pointed the finger at the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with analysts saying that the Turkish government is keen to have the ambitious heir sidelined from the nexus of power in the Arab kingdom.

However, the Turkish president has yet to directly accuse the young crown prince, who has already condemned the murder as “a repulsive incident.”

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