Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that there were strong signs that the killing of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was planned and that he was killed in a “savage way”.
Erdogan, who was speaking to members of his AK Party in parliament, 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.
Erdogan said the Saudis used a “body double” as a decoy after Khashoggi was killed. He added that the 18 people arrested in Saudi Arabia in relation to the killing matches Turkish intelligence on the matter but he called on King Salman to allow them to be tried in Turkish courts.
He said Khashoggi was the victim of a savage murder and that diplomatic immunity is not “armour” for such. His comments directly contradict Saudi accounts that the writer died accidentally in a “fistfight” in the consulate.
The address, which could have significant impact on relations in the Middle East, came a day after US president Donald Trump said he was still not satisfied with the Saudi explanation for the killing, but said he did not want to lose investment from Riyadh.
On Monday Reuters reported that CIA Director Gina Haspel was travelling to Turkey on Monday to work on the Khashoggi investigation.
“I am not satisfied with what I’ve heard,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I don’t want to lose all that investment that’s been made in our country. But we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”
He later told USA Today that he believed the death was a “plot gone awry.”
Trump has expressed reluctance to punish the Saudis economically, citing the kingdom’s multibillion-dollar purchases of US military equipment and investments in US companies.
But on Tuesday he described it as one of the “worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups” and it was announced the US is to revoke the visas of some Saudi officials implicated in Khashoggi’s death.
The UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Monday that the Saudi government’s explanation of the incident was “not credible.”
Speaking in the House of Commons, Hunt said the British government condemned the murder of the journalist “in the strongest possible terms” and expressed concerns that his “horrific treatment was inflicted by people who work for a government with whom we have close relations.”