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Whereabouts of slain Saudi journalist’s body still a mystery

ANKARA: One year later, the world still wants to know the truth about the fate of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose murder sparked international shock and outrage and put Saudi Arabia under the spotlight.

Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on Oct. 2, 2018. Although information surfaced on how he was killed, there have been no official announcements on the whereabouts of The Washington Post columnist’s body, and his killing remains an important topic globally.

Initially denying any knowledge of the murder, Saudi Arabia had to eventually admit to the killing due to efforts by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, international pressure generated by effective diplomacy and emerging evidence from the meticulous investigations of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

After refusing to allow the extradition of suspects to Turkey following Turkish requests, Saudi Arabia filed charges against 11 suspects and requested the death penalty for five of them.

President Erdogan closely followed case

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office immediately launched an investigation into the allegations that Khashoggi was detained, while the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul denied the claims and asserted that Khashoggi left the building before his apparent disappearance.

“As president, I am following the case, and we will inform the world on how this issue will be resolved,” Erdogan said in his first speech following the murder.

Erdogan made phone calls to U.S. President Donald Trump, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman regarding the murder and also frequently contacted world leaders, getting Saudi Arabia to eventually admit to the killing.

He also called Khashoggi’s family to offer his condolences. The murder received international attention as well, including reactions from the UN, the European Union, Canada, Russia and Iran.

Trump said the cover-up of the murder was “one of the worst in the history of cover-ups” and whoever thought of the idea “is in big trouble.”

Investigation in Istanbul

Saudi Attorney General Saud al-Mujeb met with Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Irfan Fidan on the murder. A joint Saudi-Turkish task force was formed and investigators combed the consulate building. Robot cameras were also used to inspect the surrounding sewage network in an effort to locate Khashoggi’s remains.

In a statement, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office reported that Khashoggi was strangled and his body was dismembered.

Saudi Arabia admits to murder

The Saudi administration later admitted that Khashoggi was killed in a “fistfight” in the consulate and 18 Saudis had been detained. In a royal decree issued the same night, Saudi Arabia’s deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri was sacked. Three senior intelligence officers were also dismissed.

The Saudi crown prince took “full responsibility” for the killing and said it was a “heinous crime” but denied ordering the murder.

UN Committee visits Turkey

For the international investigation of the case, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Agnes Callamard, British barrister Baroness Helena Kennedy and Duarte Nuno Vieira, a pathologist and professor of forensic medicine at Portugal’s Coimbra University, visited Turkey between Jan. 28 and Feb. 3 to collect information on the murder.

Callamard’s report found that “Khashoggi was the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law.”

The report stressed that Saudi Arabia must apologize to the Turkish government for abuse of diplomatic privileges, suggesting that the Saudi state was responsible.

The report brought attention to the circumstances in which Khashoggi was killed, pointing to a possible “act of torture” according to the UN Convention Against Torture, which Saudi Arabia ratified in 1997, and said his killing may also constitute an enforced disappearance, since the location of his remains has not been established.

The report also suggested that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) should launch a probe and there is reliable evidence for the investigation of high-level Saudi authorities as well as the Saudi crown prince.

It was also reported that Callamard and her team had access to “creepy and frightening voice recordings obtained by the Turkish intelligence service.”

Voice recordings revealed

Audio transcripts of voice recordings from the murder scene were published in various media outlets in Turkey. They include an alleged conversation between Saudi intelligence agent Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb and Dr. Salah Muhammed al Tubaigy, the head of Forensic Evidence at the Saudi General Security Department, in which they were planning what to do with the remains after Tubaigy was done dismembering Khashoggi’s body.

The transcripts also revealed that Khashoggi was told that he was going to be sent back to Riyadh due to an order from the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), and he responded by saying “there is no case against me. My fiancée is outside waiting for me.”

Khashoggi also reportedly urged his killers not to cover his mouth because he had asthma and could suffocate. After, he was injected with a large amount of a drug. Following the sounds of a struggle in the recordings, the team members could be heard saying “Is he asleep yet? He’s lifting his head… keep pushing,” according to the transcripts.

Anadolu Agency published a book on the incident titled “Jamal Khashoggi Murder” which depicts in detail the killing of the Saudi journalist.

It has also been presenting all the developments that transpired during and after the incident to readers through its news reports, photos and videos.

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