ISTANBUL (Reuters) – One of the killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was heard saying “I know how to cut” on the audio of the killing Turkey shared with U.S. and European officials, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.
Erdogan also slammed Riyadh for its changing account of how Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and prominent critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct.2. The journalist had gone there to collect documents for his forthcoming marriage.
The case has caused global outrage and has damaged the international standing of the 33-year-old crown prince, the kingdom’s de facto ruler. The U.S. Senate on Thursday delivered a rare rebuke to President Donald Trump for his support of the crown prince, whom it blamed for the killing.
“The United States, Germany, France, Canada, we made them all listen… The man clearly says ‘I know how to cut’. This man is a soldier. These are all in the audio recordings,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul. He did not give further details about the recording.
Istanbul’s chief prosecutor has said Khashoggi was suffocated by his killers in the consulate, before his body was dismembered and disposed of. His remains have not been found.
Khashoggi repeatedly told his killers “I can’t breathe” during his final moments, CNN reported on Monday, quoting a source who said they had read the full translated transcript of an audio recording.Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder. After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh later said Khashoggi had been killed when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.
Erdogan renewed his criticism of Riyadh’s explanation of the killing. Originally it had said Khashoggi had left the consulate. That was disputed by his Turkish fiancee, who had waited outside the building and said he never emerged.
“The prince says Jamal Khashoggi left the consulate. Is Jamal Khashoggi a kid? His fiancee is waiting outside,” Erdogan said. “They think the world is dumb. This nation isn’t dumb and it knows how to hold people accountable.”
Turkish officials said last week that the Istanbul prosecutor’s office had concluded there was “strong suspicion” that Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to Prince Mohammed, and General Ahmed al-Asiri, who served as deputy head of foreign intelligence, were among the planners of Khashoggi’s killing.
After Riyadh ruled out extraditing the two men, Turkey said this week that the world should seek out justice for Khashoggi under international law.
Erdogan has repeatedly said he would not give up the case. Trump has said he wants Washington to stand by the Saudi government and the prince, despite the CIA assessment that it was probably the prince who ordered Khashoggi’s killing.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ezgi Erkoyun; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Gareth Jones)