Turkey demands extradition of 18 Saudis in Khashoggi case as his fiancée recounts event
Turkish prosecutors have prepared an extradition request for 18 suspects from Saudi Arabia in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as his fiancee said on Friday she did not accept an invitation from US President Donald Trump to visit the White House because she thought it was aimed at influencing public opinion in his own favor.
Riyadh has said 18 people have been arrested and five senior government officials have been sacked as part of an investigation into the case. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has called on the Saudi government to return the suspects to Turkey to face trial.
In her first television interview since the killing, his fiancée Hatice Cengiz recounted the events leading up to their visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 where Khashoggi handed her his two mobile phones and went inside while she waited outside for him to emerge.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, disappeared after entering the consulate to obtain paperwork necessary for his upcoming marriage to Cengiz, a Turkish national. After weeks of denying knowledge of whereabouts, and changing its story a number of times, Riyadh has said his killing was premeditated.
“Trump invited me to the United States but I perceived it as a statement to win public favor,” Cengiz told broadcaster Haberturk, pausing at times during an interview and more than once breaking down in tears.
Trump and Prince Mohammed have cultivated warm ties though the US president said earlier this week that the crown prince, as the kingdom’s de facto ruler, bore ultimate responsibility for the operation against Khashoggi. Trump also said Riyadh had staged the “worst cover-up ever” over the killing.
Cengiz said Khashoggi was concerned tensions would arise when he visited the consulate for the first time on Sept. 28, but he was treated well at that visit, which appeared to reassure him, she said.
“I know he had questions in mind about whether something untoward could actually happen at the consulate,” she told Haberturk.
He later assumed he would not ultimately be arrested or harmed in Turkey, she said.
“His local network in Turkey was very good as you know, his political network as well,” Cengiz said. “He thought Turkey is a safe country and if he would be held or interrogated, this issue would be swiftly solved.”
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged Saudi Arabia on Friday to disclose who ordered Khashoggi’s murder, as well as the location of his body, heightening international pressure on the kingdom to come clean on the case.
Erdogan has in recent days stepped up pressure on Saudi Arabia to come clean in the case, and Western governments have also voiced increasing scepticism, pitching the world’s top oil exporter and a pivotal Middle East ally into a worsening crisis.