A Turkish presidential adviser and friend of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi says his body was cut up and dissolved in acid for easier disposal, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported Friday.
“According to the latest information we have, the reason they dismembered his body is to dissolve it easier” before it was disposed of, Yasin Aktay told the newspaper.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who who had written critically of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month to get a document he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee.
After initially denying Khashoggi had been murdered, the Saudi government claimed he died in an unplanned “rogue operation.” Saudi public prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb offered a different explanation last week when he said the killing was premeditated.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says it may be a “handful more weeks” before the U.S. has enough evidence to impose sanctions on those responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.
Pompeo told St. Louis radio station KMOX Thursday the U.S. administration is “continuing to understand the fact pattern” and added it is “reviewing putting sanctions on the individuals” who have so far been identified as being “engaged in that murder.”
Pompeo emphasized that U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed accountability for all involved in the “heinous crime.”
In his first public reaction Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the murder “horrendous” and said responsive action must be taken.
“At the same time, I say that it’s very important …for the region and [for] the world that Saudi Arabia remain stable,” Netanyahu told reporters in the Bulgarian city of Varna. “I think that a way must be found to achieve both goals, because I think the larger problem is Iran.” Iran has denied accusations it is building a nuclear bomb, saying weapons of mass destruction are prohibited under Islam.
Khashoggi’s fiancee wrote in an op-ed piece published Friday in The Washington Post the Trump administration’s response to Khashoggi’s death has been “devoid of moral foundation.”
“Of all nations, the United States should be leading the way in bringing the perpetrators to justice,” Hatice Cengiz wrote.
Instead, Cengiz said, “Some in Washington are hoping this matter will be forgotten with simple delaying tactics. But we will continue to push the Trump administration to help find justice for Jamal. There will be no coverup.”
The New York Times, quoting two people familiar with the matter, reported Friday that White House officials knew from an October 9 phone call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he considered Khashoggi a dangerous Islamist, and therefore knew the Saudi prince had a potential motive for the killing. But because of its deep investment in Prince Mohammed as the main linchpin of the administration’s Middle East agenda, the Trump administration concluded it could not feasibly limit his power.
Instead, the White House “has joined governments around the region in weighing what effect the stigma of the Khashoggi killing may have on the crown prince’s ability to rule, and what benefit can be extracted from his potential weakness,” the Times said, quoting people familiar with the administration’s deliberations.
More than 100 members of PEN America, a New York-based non-profit group of journalists and artists devoted to human rights and free expression, have called on the U.N. to launch an independent probe into the killing.
“The violent murder of a prominent journalist and commentator on foreign soil is a grave violation of human rights and a disturbing escalation of the crackdown on dissent in Saudi Arabia, whose government in recent years has jailed numerous writers, journalists, human rights advocates, and lawyers in a sweeping assault on free expression and association,” the group said Friday in an open letter.
Turkish officials said earlier this week chief Istanbul prosecutor Irfan Fidan failed to get answers about the location of Khashoggi’s body and who ordered his killing during three days of a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation in Istanbul.
The U.S. is urging Saudi Arabia to locate Khashoggi’s body and return it to his family as soon as possible.
Khashoggi’s friends and family say they want even just a piece of his body so they can carry out his wish to be buried in the city of Medina, Islam’s second holiest site.
Turkey is trying to have 18 suspects detained in Saudi Arabia extradited so they can be tried in a Turkish court. Among the suspects are 15 members of an alleged “hit squad” that Turkey claims was sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi.
Some of the people suspected of being involved in the killing have close ties to the prince, whose condemnation of Khashoggi’s killing has failed to alleviate suspicions he was involved.