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Wednesday Oct 24 2018
By
AFP

Five remaining mysteries in Khashoggi case

By
AFP
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the then-general manager of Alarab TV, addresses a press conference in Manama, Bahrain, December 15, 2014. AFP/Mohammed Al-Shaikh/Files
 

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had promised to deliver the "naked truth" in a keynote speech Tuesday on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

In the end, Erdogan made public for the first time crucial new details about the intricate planning of the murder. But he did not repeat some of the most sensational allegations published in the Turkish media over the method of killing.

And he admitted that there remain several areas where Turkey still needs answers.

Three weeks after Khashoggi stepped into the consulate in Istanbul and disappeared, here are five key remaining questions in the case.

How was Khashoggi killed?

Despite giving an hour-by-hour account of the assassination team's movements ahead of the murder, Erdogan gave no details on how it was carried out.

It is not clear if he held back such information because it has not been revealed in the investigation, or to save the Saudi side further embarrassment by the release of what could be blood-curdling detail.

Reports in pro-government media have said the body of Khashoggi was cut up by a Saudi forensics expert sent to Istanbul with a bone saw.

But the Turkish reports have also not always been consistent, with some saying he was killed by beheading and others by strangulation.

Is there an audio tape?

Another key claim made by Turkish media is that there is an audio tape — recorded by means not made clear — of the moments of Khashoggi's death, which provides conclusive proof he was killed.

Analysts have seen such a tape, if it exists, as the biggest leverage Turkey has against Saudi Arabia. The release of the alleged recording itself — rather than claims of its existence — would risk hugely magnifying the crisis for Saudi Arabia.

But Erdogan made no mention of such an audiotape in his speech.

Where is the body?

So far, there has been no official sign that a corpse has been found, despite various reports in newspapers that the body was cut up or even disposed of wrapped in a rug.

Investigations have focused on the vast Belgrade forest on the fringes of Istanbul and also the port town of Yalova south of the city, places where Erdogan said the Saudi hit squad did reconnaissance work.

The discovery this week of a Saudi diplomatic car left abandoned in an Istanbul carpark has also caused excitement. Turkish officials are now set to search the vehicle.

"Why is the body of a person — who is clearly accepted to have been killed — still not located?" asked Erdogan.

Who ordered the killing?

Erdogan himself posed this question, implying he believed the 15-man team came from Riyadh with the aim of killing Khashoggi and were acting on the orders of a higher authority.

"These (15) people, from whom did they get orders...? We are seeking answers," he asked.

Allegations in Turkish media have pointed the finger at powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but Riyadh has angrily denied such claims with the foreign minister saying operatives who acted "outside the scope of their authority" were to blame.

Yet, key Saudi allies — including leading defence exporters the United States and Britain — have indicated that Saudi has not yet given a full explanation.

Does Erdogan see an MbS link?

Erdogan has, in the last days, twice held telephone talks with Saudi King Salman and made clear in his speech he was counting on the ageing monarch to ensure Riyadh's cooperation in the probe.

But one name conspicuous by its absence in the speech was that of the crown prince.

Erdogan is believed to have warm relations with King Salman but the ascendancy of Prince Mohammed (known to many as MbS) has coincided with greater tensions in Ankara-Riyadh ties.

Some commentators saw Erdogan's comments that no one should escape punishment, whatever their rank, as an implicit warning to MbS. But even though pro-government media have pointed at him throughout the crisis, Erdogan has never once mentioned his name in public.

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