Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi a “gruesome murder” but has failed to produce any evidence to this end.
Delivering a keenly-awaited speech to the Turkish Parliament on Tuesday, Erdogan said that Turkish security services had evidence that the murder was pre-meditated and that 18 people were implicated.
However, he noticeably made no reference to audio or video recordings, nor did he produce any fresh evidence – instead focusing on details which had already been widely circulated in the press.
“Evidence indicates he [Khashoggi] was slain in a vicious and violent murder. This was not a momentary incident but the result of a planned operation,” Erdogan said.
“We know full well who was behind this and what their purpose was. This murder was committed in the Saudi consulate, but this was a world-renowned journalist and this gives us a certain responsibility… We will not remain silent in the face of this murder and will take appropriate action” he added.
Erdogan criticised what he called “incompetent consulate staff” and said the Turkish authorities had acted in compliance with the seriousness of what had happened. He said he would accept “no whitewashing” of the murder because that would “injure humanity.”
The Saudis, he said, had taken “an important step” by acknowledging the murder, but he added, “Now we expect all those responsible from the highest level to the lowest level to be brought to justice and to get the punishment they deserve.”
"This was not a momentary incident but the result of a planned operation. But who gave the instruction to these people to come here to Turkey?"
“This was not a momentary incident but the result of a planned operation. But who gave the instruction to these people to come here to Turkey? Why was the consulate not open for investigation for many days after the incident? We need answers to these questions. All we have had so far is a slurry of incoherent statements.”
In his speech - an unusual live broadcast of his weekly presentation to the Turkish parliament - Erdogan described the events of 1 October and the arrival in Istanbul of 15 people, widely thought to be a hit squad.
He said evidence indicated that some preparatory work had been done ahead of the murder and that the day before the killing a team of men arrived in Istanbul on a flight, travelled directly to the Saudi consulate and also made an “expedition” to a local forest.
Overall the team totalled 18 people, including safety and forensics experts, who arrived in different groups to the consulate. The first thing they did on arrival was to remove the hard disc drives from all CCTV cameras in the consulate, he said.
At 11.50am Khashoggi was called to confirm his appointment and he entered the consulate at 13.08pm.
Erdogan appeared to be in the dark as to the location of Khashoggi’s body and said that there were claims that the body had been given to a “local co-conspirator.”
He said it was clear that this was a political murder and that the world would only be satisfied when all the planners and perpetrators were held to account.
The trials of the 18 people implicated in the murder should take place in Turkey, he said, adding that the arrests made by authorities in Riyadh included all those who Turkey had named as assassins, as well as three other men, whose identities have not yet been revealed.
Echoing yesterday’s international news reports, Erdogan also confirmed that a Khashoggi “lookalike” had been caught on CCTV near the consulate in the journalist’s clothing soon after the murder was thought to have taken place.
MEPs are due to discuss Jamal Khashoggi’s murder with EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini later on Tuesday in parliament in Strasbourg. A resolution will be put to the vote on Thursday.