The chief prosecutor of Istanbul filed arrest warrants for Saudi officials believed to be involved in the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The prosecutor’s office believes there is “strong suspicion” that Ahmed al-Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani were among the planners of the murder.
Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate’s building in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain documentation certifying he had divorced his ex-wife. He was not seen since.
Turkish media have reported Khashoggi was killed and dismembered based on recordings from the consulate. They say he died at the hands of a 15-member assassination squad from Saudi Arabia.
A senior Turkish official told Reuters news agency that the move reflects the view that Saudi authorities will not take formal action against the al-Asiri and al-Qahtani, both close allies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The official added that Saudi Arabia could address international concern by extraditing all suspects in the killing to Turkey.
“The prosecution’s move to issue arrest warrants for Asiri and Qahtani reflects the view that the Saudi authorities won’t take formal action against those individuals,” one of the officials told Reuters news agency.
The official added that Saudi Arabia could address international concern by extraditing all suspects in the case to Turkey.
According to AFP news agency, the application for the warrants was filed on Tuesday.
At time of publication, Saudi Arabia had not publicly responded to the request.
The Saudi prosecution had previously acknowledged that al-Qahtani and Asiri were part of the plot to kill Khashoggi.
Both men were high-ranking officials who were closely associated to MBS.
It is believed that al-Qahtani supervised a 15-member assassination squad, although he did not travel to Turkey, like Asiri.
Asiri was a spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. He was then appointed as an adviser to MBS, later promoted by the prince to his intelligence position in 2017.
He was constantly criticized by rights groups over his apparent disregard for civilian casualties during the Yemen war.
It is possible that more arrests will be ordered, Al Jazeera reported.
According to the report, it is believed that the Turkish prosecution is under the impression that these men are only a part of the planning and the list is not yet conclusive. There had been a previous request from Turkey to Saudi Arabia to extradite the 18 men they mentioned were responsible for the murder but none of that has happened.
No response came from Saudi Arabia and now there is this specific mention of these two men at the top, but it’s not a conclusive list and they said these men are among the planners, not all the planners, the report stated.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he felt there was “zero chance” the crown prince wasn’t involved in Khashoggi’s death, after CIA director Gina Haspel gave a closed-door briefing on Tuesday, AJ reported.
“The views that I had before have only solidified,” said Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as per the report.
He added that it appeared the Trump administration does not want to recognise evidence of the crown prince’s complicity.
Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agreed with the the comments, saying he had zero doubt in his mind that Prince Mohammed ordered and monitored the killing of Khashoggi.
“We know that Mohammed bin Salman takes his cues from President Trump and that Trump so far has not commented on the statements that have been issued during the night from Congress members. I think the Saudis on their own will not comply with any Turkish demands unless there is enough pressure put on them from the American side,” Valls said.
(With inputs from agencies)