Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was ‘violently planned,’ top Turkish official says

Missing Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi with his fiance Hatice Cengiz

The killing of Jamal Khashoggi was “a violently planned” murder that was subsequently covered up, the spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party said Monday.

Omer Celik, spokesman for the AK party, told reporters at the party’s headquarters in Ankara that the perpetrators should be brought to justice, according to Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu.

Celik spoke a few hours after CNN published surveillance footage that showed what a Turkish source described as a “body double” leaving the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the day Khashoggi died. The Saudi operative, said by the Turkish source to be one of a 15-man team sent from Saudi Arabia to kill Khashoggi, was wearing the journalist’s clothes and was picked up on surveillance footage at locations around Istanbul.

“Jamal Khashoggi’s killing is a violently planned and a very complicated murder, which was being covered up,” Celik said. “I hope those responsible for Khashoggi’s killing are punished and no one ever thinks of repeating this.”

Erdogan has promised to elaborate on the Turkish position at a party meeting on Tuesday.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and US resident, was last seen on October 2, when he walked into the Saudi consulate to obtain paperwork to marry his fiancee Hatice Cengiz.

After weeks of denying any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts, the Saudi government admitted on Friday that he had died in the diplomatic compound. The official line is that he was accidentally killed when a discussion with officials turned into a brawl.

The Saudi narrative has continued to evolve. A Saudi source close to the royal palace later told CNN that Khashoggi’ had died in a chokehold. On Sunday, its foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, described his death on Fox News as a “murder” and a “tremendous mistake.” He also said Saudi Arabia does not know where Khashoggi’s body is

“The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority,” he said. “There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up. That is unacceptable in any government.”

On Monday, a Saudi source would not confirm or deny that the operative was sent to act as a body double, but continued to maintain that the killing of Khashoggi was not intentional.

Saudi royals offer condolences

King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, called Khashoggi’s to express their condolences, Saudi state media reported Monday.

The King called Salah Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist’s eldest son, to express “his condolences to the family and relatives of the late Jamal Khashoggi,” the state-run SPA news agency reported. The Crown Prince called to “expressed his sincere thanks” to the Crown Prince for his thoughts, according to SPA.

Salah Khashoggi, who lives in the Saudi city of Jeddah, has been unable to travel outside Saudi Arabia for several months, as his passport had been invalidated, according to sources close to the family. Other members of Khashoggi’s family, including his ex-wife and daughter, are currently in Dubai, add the sources.

The journalist’s fiancee has been placed under 24-hour police protection, the Istanbul Governor’s office announced on Sunday.

Turkish authorities will interview an additional 28 consulate staff members on Monday as part of the investigation, according to state broadcaster TRT.

Erdogan and US President Donald Trump discussed Khashoggi’s death in a phone call over the weekend, Anadolu reported Monday, and pledged to “shed light on all aspects” of the incident.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu Sunday night and reiterated an offer of US assistance with the Khashoggi investigation, a senior State Department official told CNN.

Trump also discussed the journalist’s fate with French President Emmanuel Macron, amid increasing international pressure for a transparent, independent investigation.

The US leader has continued to hedge, offering support for bin Salman, calling him in a Washington Post interview a “strong person” who “truly loves his country” while asserting that “obviously there’s been deception and there’s been lies” throughout the three weeks since Khashoggi’s disappearance.

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