ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called for 18 Saudi suspects in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to stand trial in Istanbul, saying all those involved had to face punishment.
“My demand is that 18 people be tried in Istanbul,” Erdogan said in a speech to ruling party lawmakers in Ankara, adding that “all those who played a role in the murder” had to face punishment.
He said that the murder was “planned” days in advance according to a “roadmap” set up by a Saudi team who were sent to Istanbul for the purpose.
Erdogan added he still wanted answers on numerous issues including “who gave orders” to the team and where the corpse is.
He said that there were strong signs that the killing of Khashoggi was planned and that he was killed in a “savage way”.
A team of Saudi agents began arriving in Turkey the day before Khashoggi was killed, and cameras at the consulate were removed, Erdogan told the audience.
He said a Saudi team of 15 entered the consulate the day of the killing, and that three men from the team went on an exploration trip to Belgrad forest in Istanbul and Yalova, a 90-kilometre (55 mile) drive south of Istanbul.
Erdogan also said he told Saudi King Salman that the Saudi consul in Istanbul was incompetent and that he was relieved of his duty and returned to his country.
The president added that the 18 people arrested in Saudi Arabia in relation to the killing matches Turkish intelligence on the matter.
Erdogan added that the issue of diplomatic immunity would also be discussed in regards to the case.
He had previously promised to detail Turkey´s investigation of the case.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the crown prince, the kingdom´s de facto ruler, disappeared three weeks ago after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.
Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the consulate by Saudi agents.
Turkish sources say authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting the killing of the 59-year-old.
Riyadh initially denied knowledge of his fate before saying he was killed in a fight in the consulate, a reaction greeted skeptically by several Western governments, straining relations with the world´s biggest oil exporter.
Following the global outrage prompted by the journalist´s disappearance, US President Donald Trump´s comments have varied from playing down Riyadh´s role to warning of possible economic sanctions.
Trump has also repeatedly highlighted the kingdom´s importance as a US ally and said Prince Mohammed was a strong and passionate leader.
For Saudi Arabia´s allies, the question will be whether they believe that Prince Mohammed, who has painted himself as a reformer, has any culpability.
King Salman, 82, has handed the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia to the 33-year-old prince.-REUTER/WEB DESK