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Iran Press TV

Turkish indictment gives details on how Saudi hit squad tried to hide traces of Khashoggi murder

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 21 April 2020 8:58 AM

A Turkish indictment filed by the Istanbul prosecutor's office on the state-sponsored murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi gives more details on a cover-up operation by the Saudi regime's operatives to hide their tracks.

The indictment, obtained by the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal on Monday, quoted witnesses as describing the movements of the Saudi assassination team, who were sent to kill Khashoggi inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.

A local technician working for the Saudi consulate told the Turkish investigators that he had seen two members of the hit squad at the garden of the Saudi consul-general's residence following the murder.

The worker noted that he had been told a group of engineers had come to renovate the residence, and that he had been asked to help them.

The technician also said that when he arrived in the residence garden, he saw several people running around, with some coming out of a hut and others leaving the kitchen.

"These people told me to fire the oven. I realized that they had tried to fire it but it didn't work because the ventilation was blocked," he said. "Then they asked me to carry some wood to the oven and one of them helped me to carry a couple of pieces of wood."

The worker told police that one member of the hit team – thought to be either Saad H Alzahrani or Saad al-Bostani – had helped him carry wood, and that one of the individuals he saw leaving the hut had either been Mustafa Mohammed al-Madani or Naif Hassan al-Arifi.

He added that everyone in the area had been in a hurry, and that he had been asked to quickly leave the garden.

"The marble around the oven was cleaned either by nitric acid or bleach, because its color was different," he said.

Another witness working for a local restaurant said that one hour before Khashoggi's assassination two people, who spoke both Arabic and Turkish, had purchased raw meat from their store.

Khashoggi – a late but vocal critic of Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman– had entered the Saudi consulate to obtain papers to marry his fiancée but never exited the building.

His fate was unknown for several weeks, until Saudi Arabia confirmed under rising international pressure that he had been murdered at the diplomatic mission.

Audio tapes that the Turkish government later shared with the world verified that Khashoggi had been killed and then dismembered by the Saudi hitmen. However, his body was never recovered.

The dissident Saudi journalist is widely believed to have been murdered on bin Salman's direct order.

According to the indictment, the Saudi operatives attempted to cover their tracks through deep cleaning, and by the time Turkish investigators entered the Saudi consulate, surfaces had been scrubbed clean and fresh paint could be seen on the walls.

After the killing, it added, the operatives are known to have convened in the Saudi consul-general's residence close by.

Previously, sources with knowledge of the investigation told MEE that the oven in the residence may have been used to help dispose of Khashoggi's body parts.

In February 2019, a police report said that the oven could reach temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius, which is "enough to burn all DNA evidence without a trace."

Additionally, the indictment said investigators had asked for permission from Saudi authorities to search a well beneath the consul-general's residence, but they had only been allowed to take water samples.

A Turkish source told MEE last year that water samples weren't sufficient, as the assassination team could have put Khashoggi's remains in sealed bags and placed them in the well.

The indictment also revealed that the police had struggled to access the contents of the iPhones and iPads belonging to Khashoggi, but that Apple had not responded to requests for help.

It further detailed tensions between Khashoggi and the Saudi royal family, especially bin Salman.

Last Week, Istanbul's 11th Criminal Court accepted the 117-page indictment brought against 20 Saudis, including two former associates of the Saudi crown prince, for the brutal killing.

The indictment accused former deputy head of Saudi Arabia's general intelligence, Ahmed al-Asiri, and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani of having "instigated premeditated murder with monstrous intent" and 18 others of murdering Khashoggi.

It also cited a Turkish representative, who attended court hearings in Saudi Arabia, as saying all those put on trial insisted that they were forced by the police to provide certain statements and were mere public employees who followed the orders of their superiors.

According to the MEE report, Khashoggi's friends, including ex-Egyptian presidential candidate Ayman Nour, told investigators that the journalist had been continuously pressured by Qahtani, who called him a "dog" and ended his columns in Saudi-owned newspaper Al Hayat in 2016.

Nour added that following Khashoggi's departure from Saudi Arabia to the US, the kingdom had asked him to return via text messages from his former boss Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.

Khashoggi had told Nour that upon bin Salman's sudden promotion to the heir to the Saudi throne, several princes signed a letter to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, calling on him to remove his son.

The journalist reportedly said all the signatories to the letter were later arrested, including bin Talal, because the crown prince believed that they were plotting a coup.

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