Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressed Saudi Arabia on Friday to reveal the whereabouts of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s body as well as who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was critical of the kingdom and lived in self-imposed exile in the United States.
“He’s dead and this is very clear, but where is his body?” Erdogan said, speaking through a translator on video while addressing to members of his Justice and Development Party. “You have to show us his body.”
Earlier in the week, reports in British, Chinese, and Russian media, all citing anonymous sources, said parts of Khashoggi's body were found at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he was last seen entering three weeks ago. In recent days, the focus of the search has turned to a well in the garden of the Saudi diplomatic compound. Authorities have also looked for Khashoggi's remains in a forest on the outskirts of Istanbul.
Erdogan's comments Friday come days after he made similar demands in a speech before Turkey’s Parliament, in which he called on 18 suspects—all of whom are Saudi nationals—detained in Saudi Arabia to be extradited to Turkey to stand trial for what he's described as the premeditated and "savage" murder of Khashoggi.
On Thursday, Saudi Arabian officials called Khashoggi’s death a “premeditated murder” – the third time they have changed their account of the killing in as many weeks. The kingdom initially said Khashoggi left the Saudi consulate unharmed on Oct. 2. Amid mounting international outrage, the Saudi government then asserted last Friday that Khashoggi died after a "brawl" escalated inside the Saudi diplomatic facility.
Saudi Arabia’s top brass have tried to distance themselves from the murder, blaming it on a "rogue operation" and denying that the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s death.
“There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told Fox News on Sunday. “That is unacceptable in any government."
"We are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder," Al-Jubeir said. "The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority."
Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate three weeks ago for routine paperwork needed to marry his Turkish fiancée and was reported missing soon after.
The details of what happened from the time Khashoggi entered the compound to the moment of his death remain unknown. Over the past three weeks, audio recordings have been leaked to Turkish media that purport to reveal how Khashoggi was killed. And reports based on those yet unreleased audio files give a gruesome account alleging that Khashoggi was tortured and decapitated.
Media reports say that CIA Director Gina Haspel listened to audio recordings of Khashoggi's murder when she was in Turkey earlier this week.
In his address on Friday, Erdogan said that Turkey may have “other evidence” regarding Khashoggi's killing and that it will eventually reveal this information amid the ongoing investigation.
The chief prosecutors of Turkey and Saudi Arabia are expected to meet on Monday.