Turkey Continues To Investigate Khashoggi's Death

Oct 20, 2018
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We are going to start this program in Turkey because, a day after Saudi Arabia confirmed the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkey says it is continuing its investigation into the killing. Yesterday, the Saudi government abandoned its earlier claim that it had no idea what happened to Khashoggi. He was last seen after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. Turkish investigators said he was killed inside the consulate and that his body was mutilated. The new Saudi version of events says the journalist was killed after a fight broke out between him and unnamed people inside the consulate. NPR's Peter Kenyon has more from Istanbul.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: The Saudi acknowledgement that Khashoggi died inside the consulate did little to satisfy critics who say the kingdom is still trying to deflect blame away from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. They note that the Saudis took more than two weeks to confirm what Turkish investigators have been saying all along and didn't allow authorities to search diplomatic buildings for 10 days. Officials have also said the theory that a brawl broke out doesn't fit with the evidence that a Saudi forensics expert was sent to Istanbul the same day Khashoggi arrived at the consulate. They're also demanding that the Saudis produce the body.

President Trump said he found the Saudi account of what happened credible. He also said the fight and accidental death is just a theory that's being thrown out, and he doesn't want to use arms sales to the Saudis as retribution.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have $450 billion, 110 billion of which is a military order. But this is equipment and various things ordered from Saudi Arabia - $450 billion. I think it's over a million jobs. That's not helpful for us to cancel an order like that. That hurts us far more than it hurts them.

KENYON: On Capitol Hill, however, lawmakers from both parties were sharply skeptical of the Saudi story. And German chancellor Angela Merkel demanded further clarity, saying still nothing has been cleared up.

Turkish investigators have interviewed consular employees. And Turkish media report the staff provided information that further calls into question the Saudi explanation. Staff members said they were told to take two days off, including October 2, the day Khashoggi entered the consulate to collect paperwork so he could marry his Turkish fiance. The Saudis have sacked five officials, including a key adviser to the crown prince and a top intelligence officer. Eighteen people were arrested in connection with Khashoggi's death. None of those people are reported to be members of the Saudi royal family.

Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.