The Turkish government has informed American officials that it has audio and video recordings proving that Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist who disappeared from his country's consulate in Istanbul last week, was killed inside the building.
The recordings show that a Saudi security team detained the Washington Post columnist Khashoggi, 59, in the consulate after he walked in on October 2 for paperwork before his upcoming wedding, then killed him and dismembered his body, the Post reported citing the officials.
Saudi officials have denied any involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi, saying he left the consulate shortly after entering.
It was not clear whether US officials have seen the footage or listened to the audio, but Turkish officials described their contents to their American counterparts, the newspaper said.
The audio recording in particular provides the most persuasive and gruesome evidence that the Saudi team was responsible for Khashoggi’s death, the officials said.
“The voice recording from inside the Embassy lays out what happened to Jamal after he entered,” said one person with knowledge of the recording who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” the person said. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”
A second person briefed on the recording said men could be heard beating Khashoggi, the report said.
The journalist has had long-standing ties to the Saudi royal family, but has written critically about the current government and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Turkish authorities believe 15 Saudi men who arrived in Istanbul on October 2 were connected to Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible murder.
The Post cited officials as saying that Turkish officials were wary of releasing the recordings, fearing they could divulge how the Turks spy on foreign entities in their country.
On Thursday, Turkey said that it agreed to a request by Saudi Arabia to form a joint committee to probe what happened to Khashoggi.
US President Donald Trump called Khashoggi’s suspected killing “a terrible thing”, but stopped short of assigning blame. “We’re being very tough and we have investigators over there and we’re working with Turkey and Saudi Arabia. We want to find out what happened.”
The US President, however, was reluctant to take any action on Saudi, particularly on the issue of arms sales.
“I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the US because… they’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China,” Trump said, referring to a US arms deal with Saudi Arabia. “If it turns out to be as bad as it might be, there are certainly other ways of handling the situation.”
British tycoon Richard Branson said he was pulling back from two tourism projects in Saudi Arabia and suspended discussions with Riyadh about a $1 billion investment in Virgin’s space companies. (IANS)