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Turkey says Khashoggi murder in Saudi consulate ‘savagely planned’

ISTANBUL: Turkey on Monday said that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was “savagely planned”, vowing nothing would remain secret in a case that has severely tarnished the image of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Upping the pressure on Riyadh, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to reveal the “naked truth” on Tuesday about the Khashoggi case.

The Washington Post contributor, 59, was murdered almost three weeks ago after stepping inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

After more than two weeks of near silence, Saudi Arabia finally admitted Khashoggi was killed in the consulate but the kingdom’s explanations are seen by friends and foes alike as contradictory and evasive.

The case has shone the spotlight on Crown Prince Mohammed. He has spearheaded a reform drive for the kingdom but now faces a stream of allegations — denied by Riyadh — that he ordered the killing of Khashoggi.

CNN International broadcast images it said showed a Saudi official playing the role of a body double for Khashoggi, wearing his clothes while leaving the consulate in an apparent bid to falsely show the journalist had left safely.

White House advisor Jared Kushner — the son-in-law of President Donald Trump — said he had urged Prince Mohammed to be “fully transparent” as “the world is watching.”

‘Enemy of Turkey’

The spokesman of Erdogan’s ruling party Omer Celik said the killing “was planned in an extremely savage manner”.

It was the first official indication that Ankara believes a murder plan was coordinated in advance. “We are faced with a situation where there has been a lot of effort to whitewash this,” he complained.

One of Erdogan’s advisors, Yasin Aktay, wrote in the Yeni Safak daily that the Saudi version given so far “feels like our intelligence is being mocked”.

“From the start, the line of our president has been clear. Nothing will remain secret in this case,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters, a day ahead of a key speech by Erdogan on the case.

Yeni Safak said Saudi security official Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, head of a team of 15 Saudis sent to Istanbul for the task, called the head of Prince Mohammed’s office, Bader al-Asaker, “four times after the murder”.

Abdulkadir Selvi, whose Hurriyet newspaper columns are closely watched for indications of Erdogan’s thinking, wrote that Khashoggi was slowly strangled to death for eight minutes and a Saudi forensic specialist then cut his body into 15 pieces while listening to music.

“We cannot close this file until the crown prince is brought to account and removed from his post. For 50 years we cannot live with a crown prince who is an enemy of Turkey,” said Selvi.

Meanwhile with Khashoggi’s remains still missing, Turkish police found an abandoned car belonging to the Saudi consulate in an underground car park in the Sultangazi district of Istanbul, state media said.

‘Shed light on case’

Erdogan has stopped short of directly pointing the finger at Riyadh. Analysts say he preferred to authorise the leak of incriminating information to pro-government media to pressure the kingdom.

He has twice held telephone talks with King Salman on the crisis, with some analysts arguing Erdogan was seeking to preserve Turkish-Saudi relations through the ageing monarch while sidelining his son Prince Mohammed.

Kalin described Saudi Arabia as an “important country, a brotherly and friendly country” for Turkey and said Ankara did not want to see relations damaged.

“Consequently, there is a great responsibility on the Saudi authorities to shed light on the case,” he said.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, a smooth former envoy to Washington and fluent English speaker, on Sunday appeared on Fox News to blame a “rogue operation” by individuals who “exceeded their responsibilities” and then “tried to cover up for it”.

‘Justice must be served’

The timing of the controversy could not be worse for the crown prince as he prepares to host a key investment summit on Tuesday, overshadowed by big name cancellations.

Dozens of executives from bankers Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan to ride-hailing app Uber to Western leaders like International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde have pulled out of the three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII), dubbed “Davos in the desert”.

The chief executive of German industrial conglomerate Siemens Joe Kaeser was the latest to cancel, saying “for now, the truth must be found and justice must be served.”

Meanwhile German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin would not export arms to Riyadh “in the current situation”, despite Germany’s approval last month of 416 million euros ($480 million) worth of arms exports to Saudi Arabia for 2018.

Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, whose country is also a key arms supplier to Riyadh, told parliament: “We must get to the truth of what happened.”

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