ISTANBUL — Turkish crime-scene investigators entered the residence of the Saudi consul general in Istanbul on Wednesday to search for evidence in the disappearance of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, just as a pro-government newspaper published a gruesome recounting of his alleged slaying.
Saudi Arabia’s green national flag flapped overhead as forensics teams walked into the residence, only a mile from the consulate where Khashoggi vanished Oct. 2 while trying to pick up paperwork to get married. It was the second-such extraordinary search of land considered under international law to be Saudi sovereign soil after Turkish police searched the consulate through the early morning Tuesday.
“Sooner’s betters than later for everyone,” Pompeo said.
Turkish Officials Describe Grisly Assassination
Turkish officials have described a grisly assassination and cover-up, with Saudi agents dismembering the body for disposal.
The Turkish authorities have released video footage of him walking into the consulate, but they say there is none of him walking out. The Saudis, while insisting that he left the consulate safely, have not offered any evidence. Khashoggi’s fiancée waited for him outside the consulate for hours.
Among the Saudi agents was a doctor who specialized in autopsies, and the group had brought a bone saw into the consulate, which it used to dismember Khashoggi, according to the Turkish officials.
But the Turks have not yet made public their findings, some of which may come from secret electronic surveillance.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a personal friend of Khashoggi’s, has repeatedly demanded an explanation from the Saudis but has not made specific accusations.
The residence search Wednesday came after a report by the newspaper Yeni Safak citing what it described as an audio recording of Khashoggi’s slaying. It described the 60-year-old Washington Post columnist as being tortured after entering the consulate.
The newspaper said Saudi Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi could be heard on the tape, telling those allegedly torturing Khashoggi: “Do this outside; you’re going to get me in trouble.”
The newspaper said one of the Saudis torturing Khashoggi replied: “Shut up if you want to live when you return to (Saudi) Arabia.”
Security services in Turkey have used pro-government media to leak details of Khashoggi’s case, adding to the pressure on the kingdom.
Saudi officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press in recent days. Al-Otaibi left Turkey on Tuesday afternoon, Turkish state media reported.
Pompeo: Saudis Will Share Investigation Findings
On Wednesday, Pompeo held separate meetings with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, each for about 40 minutes in Ankara, Turkey’s capital.
The three posed for photos, but said nothing together in front of reporters.
On a plane back home, Pompeo said Erdogan “made clear that the Saudis had cooperated with the investigation that the Turks are engaged in and they are going to share information.”
“If a country engages in activity that is unlawful it’s unacceptable,” Pompeo said. “No one is going to defend activity of that nature. We just need to simply say what happened.”
Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman and his son, the 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Tuesday. Before leaving Riyadh, Pompeo told reporters that the Saudi leaders “made no exceptions on who they would hold accountable.”
“They made a commitment to hold anyone connected to any wrongdoing that may be found accountable for that, whether they are a senior officer or official,” Pompeo said.
No major decisions are made outside of the ultraconservative kingdom’s ruling Al Saud family. Khashoggi had fled the country last year amid the rise of Prince Mohammed, whom he wrote critically about in the Post.
Saudis Could Use Oil as Weapon
On Tuesday, a high-level Turkish official told the AP that police found “certain evidence” of Khashoggi’s slaying at the consulate, without elaborating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
President Donald Trump’s previous warnings over the case drew an angry response Sunday from Saudi Arabia and its state-linked media, including a suggestion that Riyadh could wield its oil production as a weapon. The U.S. president has been after King Salman and OPEC to boost production to drive down high oil prices, caused in part by the coming re-imposition of oil sanctions on Iran.
Prominent U.S. newspapers have reported, citing anonymous sources, that Saudi officials may soon acknowledge Khashoggi’s slaying at the consulate but blame it on a botched intelligence operation. That could, like Trump’s softening comments, seek to give the kingdom a way out of the global firestorm of criticism over Khashoggi’s fate.