Friday, 21 Jun 2024

Khashoggi's body parts transported in suitcases: Report

Corpse of Saudi journalist was dismembered and put into five suitcases after he was strangled, Turkish daily reports.

    The Turkish pro-government newspaper Sabah has reported that journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s corpse was dismembered and put into five suitcases after he was strangled upon entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

    Citing unnamed officials, Sabah reported on Sunday that the suitcases were then taken to the Saudi consul’s residence near the consulate the day the writer was killed on October 2.

    The officials said that Maher Mutreb, Salah Tubeigy and Thaar al-Harbi were the three key figures from the 15-member hit squad who were involved in dismembering Khashoggi’s body and removing it from the premises.

    Mutreb was a direct aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, while Tubeigy was the head of the Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics and a colonel in the Saudi army.

    Al-Harbi was reportedly promoted to lieutenant in the Saudi royal guard last year for bravery in the defence of the crown prince’s palace in Jeddah.

    The leak of the details coincides with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement in which he said he believed that the order to kill the journalist came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi state.

    Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Istanbul on Sunday, said that the latest information adds detail to the picture formulated by Turkish prosecutors that this was a gruesome murder.

    Simmons said that Mutreb is a senior intelligence official, known as a key figure in the Saudi royal household for security who appeared to be leading the operation, while Tubeigy has experience in forensic pathology.

    CCTV footage shows the three individuals travelled in a number of vehicles from the consulate to the consul general’s residence 200 metres away after the murder at 3 pm.

    Less than 2 hours later, Mutreb is seen leaving the residence, CCTV footage shows.

    It is at the residence that they reportedly disposed of the body parts, although it is unknown how this was done.

    “This is a looming question. No one knows where the body went. One Turkish official is reported saying that there was acid used to dissolve the bodies, there’s another report that the well shaft was used in the garden of the consul general’s residence. It is unclear,” Simmons said.

    “There is a real concern now that the Saudis aren’t being open enough with the Turkish investigators. Furthermore, on a political level, [there is] a big concern that world attention is beginning to wane somewhat on this whole case and whether or not the US is prepared to take firm action against the Saudis that Turkey wants to see.”

    In an opinion piece published by US newspaper The Washington Post on Friday, Erdogan called on Saudi Arabia to answer outstanding questions concerning the 59-year-old’s killing last month.

    “We must reveal the identities of the puppet masters behind Khashoggi’s killing,” Erdogan said.

    The body of Khashoggi, a former Washington Post columnist and critic of MBS, remains missing.

    On Wednesday, a Turkish prosecutor said Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered soon after entering the building, in the first official comments from the Turks on the fate of the writer.

    Turkish media outlets have named the 15 Saudi suspects who flew into Istanbul and left on the same day the journalist was last seen.

    The joint Turkish and Saudi probe into Khashoggi’s fate has made little progress so far.

    ‘Dismembered and dissolved’

    On Friday, an adviser to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the team that killed Khashoggi cut up his body in order to dissolve for easier disposal.

    Yasin Aktay, who was a friend of Khashoggi’s, told Hurriyet newspaper that the corpse was disposed of by dismembering and dissolving it.

    “According to the latest information we have, the reason they dismembered his body is to dissolve it easier,” said Aktay.

    “They aimed to ensure no sign of the body was left.”

    A senior Turkish official has told Al Jazeera the journalist’s body was dismembered and dissolved in acid, without offering evidence.

    Saudi Arabia initially denied Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate but, following intense international pressure and after changing their narrative numerous times, the Saudi prosecutor admitted that Khashoggi was killed in a “premeditated” manner.

    The Saudi prosecutor flew to Turkey last week and met Istanbul’s chief prosecutor but the investigation has made little progress so far as Saudi Arabia and Turkey remain at loggerheads.

    Turkey’s justice minister has accused the Saudis of failing to answer questions regarding the case.

    Two questions that Turkey wants Riyadh to answer relate to the identity of a “local collaborator” to whom Saudi officials claimed to have handed over Khashoggi’s remains, as well as the identity of the person who ordered the killing.

    On Wednesday, a senior Turkish official said that Saudi Arabian officials appeared unwilling to “genuinely cooperate” with Turkey’s investigation.

    “The Saudi officials seemed primarily interested in finding out what evidence the Turkish authorities had against the perpetrators,” the official told AFP news agency on the condition of anonymity.

    “We did not get the impression that they were keen on genuinely cooperating with the investigation.”

    The Saudis have also launched their own investigation, vowing to “uncover every stone” and “punish” those who are responsible.

    A spokesperson for President Erdogan’s AK Party said on Wednesday Khashoggi’s killing could not have been made possible without orders from someone in a senior position.

    Omar Celik told reporters in Ankara that Turkey would not let anyone cover up Khashoggi’s killing, adding that it was not possible for Saudi officials to still not know the body’s whereabouts.

    The Turkish president stressed in the Washington Post op-ed on Friday that Turkey would keep investigating Khashoggi’s case.

    “We are shocked and saddened by the efforts of certain Saudi officials to cover up Khashoggi’s premeditated murder, rather than serve the cause of justice, as our friendship would require,” Erdogan said.

    Erdogan added that Khashoggi’s murder was a clear violation and a “blatant abuse” of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

    “Failure to punish the perpetrators could set a very dangerous precedent,” Erdogan said.

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