In a speech to his ruling Justice and Development Party on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Saudi Arabia's acknowledgment that Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed Oct. 2 inside its Istanbul consulate a good first step, but he forcefully disputed the Saudi story that Khashoggi died in a spontaneous fistfight. Saudi officials began planning Khashoggi's "savage murder" in late September, Erdogan said, and a team of three Saudis arrived Oct. 1 to scout a forest, possibly for a place to bury Khashoggi's dismembered remains. He also confirmed that the Saudis used a body double to try and make it seem like Khashoggi left the consulate alive.
Erdogan said the 18 people Saudi Arabia says it has arrested for the murder include the 15 Saudi agents identified by Turkish intelligence plus three consular officials, and he requested that Saudi Arabia let them be tried for their crimes in Istanbul. He also said a Saudi official told him a Turkish co-conspirator may have helped dispose of the body. Erdogan questioned who ordered the assassination, asked what happened to Khashoggi's body, and said he expects all perpetrators to be brought to justice, "from the highest level to the lowest level."
“I do not doubt the sincerity of King Salman," Erdogan said. "That being said, an independent investigation needs to be carried out. This is a political killing." He did not mention Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king's son. But the speech carried a strong implication that Erdogan did not believe the crown prince is innocent, says Bethan McKernan, Middle East correspondent for The Guardian. Peter Weber