Turkish Paper Claims Saudis Dismembered Khashoggi While Still Alive

Trump denies covering for Saudis, says truth out in days
AFP/MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH
JOHN HAYWARD

Turkish newspapers, particularly those supportive of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have driven the story of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance at the Saudi consulate with lurid and dubiously-sourced claims.

Few are more supportive than Yeni Safak, and none have produced a more sensational headline than Wednesday’s “Recordings Reveal Khashoggi Tortured, Then Dismembered While Still Alive.”

Yeni Safak claimed it “obtained” this information about “numerous voice recordings from inside the Saudi consulate” from sources it would not identify. This particular account of the much-rumored audio files is more specific than most:

In one of the recordings, Saudi Arabia’s Consul General Mohammad al-Otaibi, who left Turkey for Riyadh on Tuesday, can be heard saying: “If you want to live, be quiet!”

Sources indicate that Khashoggi was tortured before he was killed. His fingers were allegedly cut off during the interrogation process before he was decapitated.

The consul general can be heard saying: “Do this outside. You’re going to get me in trouble.”

Some other sources claim it was one of the interrogators who told the consul general to “shut up if you want to live when we are back in Arabia” after he asked them to perform the torture and murder outside so he did not get into trouble.

Yeni Safak then quoted another Turkish source who claimed it took seven minutes for Khashoggi to die after he was “dragged from the Consul General’s office at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and onto the table of his study next door” so the 15-man Saudi death squad could go to work on him:

The screaming stopped when Khashoggi was injected with an as yet unknown substance. Head of forensic evidence in the Saudi general security department Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy began to cut Khashoggi’s body up on a table in the study while he was still alive. As he started to dismember the body, Tubaigy put on earphones and listened to music. He advised other members of the squad to do the same.

The Turkish paper carefully noted that “many global media outlets have claimed that recordings of his death inside the consulate exist,” naming Reuters as one of them. Yet the report quotes another Turkish official telling the Associated Press on Tuesday that investigators found “certain evidence” of Khashoggi’s murder inside the consulate.

Yet another rumor from Turkish state media related by CNN on Wednesday said Turkish investigators obtained “a large number of DNA cell samples” during their visit to the Saudi consulate, and now wish to search the consul general’s personal residence nearby. The Saudis have not yet granted permission to inspect the residence.

“Several US officials have told CNN that any such operation could not have happened without the Crown Prince’s direct knowledge,” CNN reported.

Stern challenges have been made to the authenticity of some leaks coming through Turkish media. For example:

Reuters did, in fact, withdraw the story about the consul general’s sacking on Wednesday, although Turkish media outlets like Hurriyet Daily News still reported it as accurate information late Wednesday morning. Al-Otaibi would pretty much have to be fired – or worse – if the report of audio provided by Yeni Safak is accurate.

As Yeni Safak’s citation of international media outlets shows, reporting on Khashoggi’s disappearance has become a perpetual motion engine of rumors reported by dubious Turkish outlets and validated by global repetition, inspiring the Turkish papers to produce more rumors. Yet the U.S. government has not categorically denied all reports of audio evidence or unambiguously stated that U.S. intelligence has reviewed no such recordings.

The New York Times appeared to solidify one of the more nebulous bits of information from the case on Tuesday by claiming positive identification for nine members of the Saudi team that visited the Istanbul consulate on the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance. All nine of them “worked for the Saudi security services, military, or other government ministries.”

“One of them, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, was a diplomat assigned to the Saudi Embassy in London in 2007, according to a British diplomatic roster. He traveled extensively with the crown prince, perhaps as a bodyguard,” the Times reported.

Another member of the team was identified as “a member of the security team that travels with the crown prince,” while a third is said to have recently been “promoted last year to the rank of lieutenant in the Saudi royal guard for bravery in the defense of Prince Mohammed’s palace in Jeddah.”

The newspaper identified one other member of the team as a member of the royal guard, while the Times strongly hinted confirmation of the long-rumored presence of forensics expert Dr. Salah al-Tubaigy – the man who allegedly butchered Khashoggi with a bone saw. The NYT cited Tubaigy’s prestigious credentials as a good reason to doubt he could have been part of a “rogue operation” unsanctioned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

CNN cited three unnamed sources claiming a “high-ranking officer who was close to the Crown Prince’s inner circle” and works for “the General Intelligence Presidency, the main Saudi intelligence service” was involved. These sources implied the intelligence officer is likely to take the fall as a rogue agent who acted without proper authorization from the Saudi government.

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