Leaders’ bitter Khashoggi feud
THE feud surrounding journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder is escalating, as the world demands to know the truth of what happened at the Saudi consulate.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pronounced the death a "savage murder", with Khashoggi killed and dismembered inside the consulate by Saudi agents on October 2. But Saudi authorities have refused to allow Turkish police to search a well in the garden of the consulate in Istanbul, according to Turkey's state-run Andalou agency.
Turkish sources alleged that body parts and a disfigured face had been found in the garden, Sky News reported, but the discovery has not been confirmed.
Riyadh called the killing a "huge and grave mistake", in which Khashoggi was accidentally strangled after he was placed in a chokehold during an interrogation gone wrong.
The Saudi authorities maintain that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew nothing about the murder, while Turkey claims it was a carefully planned assassination masterminded by the royal.
Mr Erdogan says that when diplomats in the consulate learnt Khashoggi would be coming in for a document, one flew back to Riyadh, where "a road map started to be established." A team of 15 Saudi agents then flew to Istanbul on October 2 with suitcases and a "bone saw", checking into hotels but flying out the same day.
Mr Erdogan also confirmed that a body double of Khashoggi was used as a decoy after he was killed, after CCTV footage emerged on Monday of a man wearing the Washington Post columnist's dress shirt, suit jacket and pants.
Saudi officials admitted they brought in a body double to pose as Khashoggi, but claimed it was part of a plan to kidnap rather than to kill him.
Turkish officials also reportedly have a recording of the alleged "ferocious" torture and killing, but Mr Erdogan has held back any further evidence so far. He has also refrained from naming the crown prince directly, although he referred to King Salman's "sincerity".
Prince Mohammed was defiant on Tuesday as he made a surprise appearance at a global investment conference at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh. Many of the American and international businesses due to attend pulled out to avoid being associated with the regime amid the horror accusations.
The crown prince and Saudi King Salman earlier invited Khashoggi's son Salah and brother Sahel to the Yamama Palace in Riyadh to offer condolences. The journalist's son, who is banned from leaving Saudi Arabia, was pictured staring coldly at the crown prince as they shook hands.
Since Khashoggi's disappearance more than three weeks ago, Turkish and Saudi authorities have searched the consulate and consul general's residence in Istanbul, as well as a consulate car.
The crown prince, who has portrayed himself as a progressive reformer, is now coming under fire from leaders in the region and across the world.
Donald Trump was initially reserved on Khashoggi's death, calling the Saudis account "credible", but on Tuesday referred to it as "the worst cover-up ever". The US administration said it would revoke the visas of 21 Saudis suspected of killing the Virginia resident.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said the "heinous murder" would have been unthinkable "without US backing,"
France will take "punitive measures" if Saudi Arabia is "proven" to be behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said on Wednesday.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that arms exports to Saudi Arabia "can't take place in the situation we're currently in," citing Khashoggi's death.
Spain's prime minister Pedro Sanchez said his government would fulfil past arms sales contracts with Saudi Arabia despite his "dismay" over the "terrible murder", saying protecting jobs in Spain was central to his decision last month to go ahead with a controversial bomb shipment to Saudi Arabia.
While the US is the biggest Saudi arms supplier, Europe has also been selling billions of dollars' worth of weapons to the kingdom for decades.