ANKARA, TURKEY - Days ahead of the anniversary of the grisly slaying of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that his country will press ahead with efforts to shed light on the killing.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Erdogan described the journalist’s killing by a Saudi hit squad as “arguably the most influential and controversial incident of the 21st century” and blamed the murder on a “shadow state within the kingdom’s government — not the Saudi state or people.”
The Turkish leader wrote: “We will keep asking the same questions... Where are Khashoggi’s remains? Who signed the Saudi journalist’s death warrant? Who dispatched the 15 killers, including a forensic expert, aboard the two planes to Istanbul?”
Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, to collect a document that he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee. Agents of the Saudi government killed Khashoggi inside the consulate and apparently dismembered his body, which has never been found.
Saudi Arabia initially offered multiple, shifting accounts about Khashoggi’s disappearance. As international pressure mounted, the kingdom eventually settled on the explanation that he was killed by rogue officials in a brawl inside their consulate.
The kingdom has put 11 people on trial in non-public proceedings. No one has been convicted so far.
Erdogan criticized the court proceedings in Saudi Arabia, which he said lacked transparency and maintained that some of Khashoggi’s murderers “enjoy de facto freedom.” The court proceedings “tarnish the image of Saudi Arabia,” Erdogan added.
A U.N. report released earlier this year asserted that Saudi Arabia bore responsibility for the killing and that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s possible role should be investigated.
On Sunday, Prince Mohammed said in a television interview that he takes “full responsibility” for Khashoggi’s death but denied allegations that he ordered it.
“This was a heinous crime,” Prince Mohammed, 34, told “60 Minutes.” ″But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.”