Turkey steps up pressure on Saudi Arabia to extradite Khashoggi killing suspects

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Turkey has intensified its demands for Saudi Arabia to extradite 18 suspects in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mr Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancee, meanwhile, gave an anguished and tearful TV interview in which she said she keeps asking herself if she had missed some signs and should have prevented him from entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

The Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office submitted a request for Saudi Arabia to hand over the suspects in the killing, and Turkey’s Foreign Ministry will formally notify the kingdom, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The Saudi government has said it arrested and would itself punish 18 people for what it described as a rogue operation by officials who killed Mr Khashoggi in the consulate.

“We expect our request (for the suspects’) return to be fulfilled because this atrocious event took place in Turkey,” said Turkish justice minister Abdulhamit Gul.

Saudi Arabia has returned suspects to Turkey before. The stakes are much higher in the Khashoggi case, however, as some of those implicated are close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s heir apparent whose condemnation of the killing failed to ease suspicions that he was involved.

Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Amr Nabil/AP)

“The reasoning behind the extradition request is that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in Turkey by Saudi nationals who travelled to Turkey for this specific purpose,” a senior Turkish official said.

CCTV of Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul
CCTV of Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul (CCTV/Hurriyet/AP)

Turkey alleges a 15-member hit squad was sent to Istanbul to kill the journalist, a onetime Saudi insider who became a critic of Prince Mohammed and was a columnist for The Washington Post.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the three others in the group of 18 who were detained in Saudi Arabia were consulate employees.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

“There is no point in being too hasty,” Mr Erdogan said in an address to ruling party leaders.

He added that the Saudis who killed Mr Khashoggi must reveal the location of his body.

Saudi prosecutors have said evidence from Turkey indicates that the killing was premeditated, a change from previous Saudi statements seeking to dodge responsibility for a crime that caused global outrage.

Hours after Mr Erdogan’s speech, Mr Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz told HaberTurk, a Turkish news channel, about her pain since he disappeared after entering the consulate.

“I found myself in a darkness I cannot express,” Ms Cengiz said. She described how she had accompanied Mr Khashoggi, 59, to the consulate and waited outside while, she thought, he was getting paperwork for their planned marriage. He never came out.

“I still have questions that I cannot answer,” said a tearful Ms Cengiz. “Did I miss something? Did I not notice something?”

Ms Cengiz said she has not received any condolence call from Saudi officials after the death of Mr Khashoggi, who left Saudi Arabia for self-imposed exile in the United States a year ago. On Thursday, one of the journalist’s sons, Salah Khashoggi, flew with his family from Saudi Arabia to the US.

Prince Mohammed has condemned the killing, but critics suspect a cover-up designed to protect him, noting that he has tight control over the day-to-day affairs of the kingdom.

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