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Turkey's president says some of Khashoggi killers enjoy 'impunity' in Saudi Arabia

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)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the United Nations summit on climate change in New York City, September 23, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country will keep pushing for the truth behind the gruesome murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who is believed to have been killed on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s direct order.

In an article published in the Washington Post, for which Khashoggi was a columnist, the Turkish leader said some of the killers of the ill-fated journo appeared to be evading justice.

Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic of bin Salman, was killed after being lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, and his body was dismembered by a Saudi hit squad.

The Saudi government initially claimed Khashoggi left the consulate on that day, but Riyadh later said that, after a thorough investigation into the case, it had reached the conclusion that he had been killed by a “rogue” group and not by direct order from the crown prince, who is also known as MbS and seen as the de facto ruler of the Arab kingdom.

“The 15-member assassination squad that murdered Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul and chopped his body into pieces served the interests of a shadow state within the kingdom’s government,” Erdogan said, without giving more details regarding the so-called shadow state.

The Washington Post reported in November last year that the CIA had concluded that bin Salman had ordered the killing. Furthermore, an investigative team led by the United Nations also said it believed MbS was the prime suspect in the state-sponsored murder. Washington has refused to formally implicate Mohammed, however.

The Turkish president further wrote that some of the killers seemed to enjoy impunity once they returned to Saudi Arabia, and this is “perhaps more dangerous.” There was an almost total lack of transparency on the court proceedings in the Arab kingdom, Erdogan argues.

“It is no secret that there are many questions about the court proceedings in Saudi Arabia. The near-complete lack of transparency surrounding the trial, the lack of public access to hearings and the allegation that some of Khashoggi’s murderers enjoy de facto freedom fail to meet the international community’s expectations and tarnish the image of Saudi Arabia,” Erdogan wrote.

In his first public remarks on the matter, bin Salman attempted to portray himself as not having been involved in the brutal murder. In a PBS documentary, while denying an ability to keep an eye on everything, Mohammed said he bore responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder “because it happened under my watch.”

In another article in the Washington Post in early November last year, Erdogan had said that “we know the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government.”

While the Turkish leader stopped short of naming Mohammed, he said the order did not come from Saudi King Salman. In his Sunday’s article, Erdogan almost echoed what he had said last year.

“My administration, therefore, made a clear and unmistakable distinction between the thugs who murdered Khashoggi and King Salman and his loyal subjects.”

Until now, and despite the international attention that the state-sponsored murder has continuously received, 34-year-old Mohammed had refused to speak about his role in the killing.

With all evidence pointing to him for direct involvement, his acceptance of general responsibility for the murder is seen as an attempt — even if belated — at looking like a political leader answerable on important matters.

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