- Osman Orsal/Reuters
- The Turkish government has reportedly told US officials it has audio and video recordings indicating the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed during his visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
- Khashoggi, who lived in Virginia under self-imposed exile, was an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
- The episode has put the US in a precarious position, straining its ties to an ally that spends billions in arms sales.
The Turkish government has reportedly told US officials it has audio and video recordings suggesting the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed during his visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
A Washington Post report published Thursday cited multiple unnamed Turkish and US officials, including one The Post said described audio indicating that a team of Saudis “interrogated, tortured, and then murdered” Khashoggi. The officials also reportedly said the recordings suggested the body of Khashoggi, a Saudi national who visited the consulate for paperwork related to his coming wedding, was dismembered after his death.
An audio recording “lays out what happened to Jamal after he entered” the consulate, a source told The Post, adding that “you can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic.”
The Post cited another person as saying men could be heard beating Khashoggi.
The Post said that it was unclear whether US officials had heard the recordings but that Turkish officials had described their contents to them.
Saudi Arabia has denied responsibility for Khashoggi’s disappearance but has not provided evidence the journalist left the consulate alive.
The existence of recordings may be the clearest indication yet of foul play and, as The Post pointed out, could explain why Turkish officials were so quick after his disappearance to suggest he had been killed at the consulate.
Among the strongest evidence previously linking Saudi Arabia to Khashoggi’s disappearance were reports that 15 Saudis flew to Istanbul from Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on the day of the disappearance and visited the consulate before leaving the country within hours.
US intelligence officials also previously intercepted communications indicating the Saudis had discussed a plan to capture Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia, The Post said, citing an unnamed person who also told the newspaper it was unclear whether the US had warned the journalist.
Khashoggi, who lived in Virginia under self-imposed exile, was an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi frequently wrote scathing columns that contradicted Prince Mohammed’s image as a moderate reformer.
The linking of Saudi Arabia to Khashoggi’s disappearance has put the US, a Saudi ally, in a precarious position, straining its ties to a country that spends billions on US military equipment. On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of US senators on the Foreign Relations Committee urged President Donald Trump to identify and hold accountable those responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“We request that you make a determination on the imposition of sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to any foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi,” Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Robert Menendez of New Jersey said in a statement.
On Thursday, Trump said the US was looking at the situation “very strongly.”
“We’ll be having a report out soon,” Trump said. “We’re working with Turkey, we’re working with Saudi Arabia. What happened is a terrible thing, assuming that happened. I mean, maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised, but somehow I tend to doubt it.”