New claims over how Saudi journalist was allegedly killed

New claims over how Saudi journalist was allegedly killed

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Vice President Mike Pence says it is important for the ‘world to know the truth’ when it comes to finding out what happened to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Oct. 16)
AP

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks with Turkey’s leadership in Ankara on Wednesday as new disturbing allegations surfaced over how Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have been killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Pompeo’s visit to Turkey’s capital for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan follows his visit to Saudi Arabia, where he held talks with Saudi King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, over the disappearance of Khashoggi. The Saudi journalist, who wrote critically of the kingdom and royal family for the Washington Post, has been missing since entering the consulate on Oct. 2. 

For the last two weeks, Turkish security officials have claimed in various leaks to state-run media and some U.S. outlets that they have audio and video evidence indicating Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate. Police investigators searching the consulate on Tuesday also said, without elaborating, that they found evidence Khashoggi was killed there. Saudi Arabia’s leadership has consistently denied the allegations and Saudi officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment. 

More: US weapons sales a flashpoint as President Trump presses Saudi Arabia over missing journalist

More: Can the U.S.-Saudi relationship survive journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s presumed killing?

In addition to Erdogan, Pompeo met Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The talks lasted about 40 minutes. No details of the conversations were immediately released. 

Before leaving Riyadh, Pompeo said the kingdom has assured him that a fully “transparent investigation” would take place and there would be “no exceptions on who they would hold accountable,” including members of the governing royal family. 

But despite these assurances, allegations against the Saudis are mounting, with a lurid account published Wednesday by pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak of Khashoggi’s alleged slaying just the latest such example. The newspaper said it has heard an audio recording of Khashoggi’s murder in which Saudi Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi could be heard on the tape telling those allegedly torturing Khashoggi: “Do this outside; you’re going to get me in trouble.” It said one of the torturers replied: “Shut up if you want to live when you return to (Saudi) Arabia.”

Yeni Safak claimed Khashoggi was tortured then dismembered while still alive. The Saudi who cut Khashoggi’s body up was advised to put on earphones and listen to music, according to the newspaper, which cited government security sources. 

The alleged execution reportedly lasted seven minutes.  

Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told the state-run Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has “accepted” a request for a search of the Saudi consul’s official residence in Istanbul but has not yet given its final consent.

It’s been reported this week that the Saudis may also decide to acknowledge Khashoggi’s slaying, perhaps as part of a botched interrogation and/or rendition. Khashoggi had moved to Washington last year because he feared retribution for his criticism of Saudi Arabia amid a crackdown on dissent that has jailed hundreds.

Still, President Donald Trump has appeared to give the Saudis the benefit of the doubt amid rising global condemnation. In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, Trump compared the situation to the allegations of sexual assault leveled against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.

“I think we have to find out what happened first,” he said. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”?

Also Tuesday: Trump said he spoke with both the Saudi king and crown prince and both men emphatically disputed involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance. “(He) totally denied any knowledge of what took place,” Trump said of the crown prince.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have a longstanding close relationship that extends to cooperation on oil production, combatting terrorism and weapons sales. Trump visited the Middle East country as part of his first foreign trip as president. 

More: Intimidation, detention, even murder: World is full of many potential Jamal Khashoggis

More: Will oil prices rise in the wake of the missing Saudi journalist case?

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