Turkish President Says Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Was 'Brutally Murdered'
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. is revoking visas for a number of Saudi officials who may have been involved in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
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MIKE POMPEO: We have identified at least some of the individuals responsible, including those in the intelligence services, the royal court, the foreign ministry and other Saudi ministries who we suspect to have been involved in Mr. Khashoggi's death.
CORNISH: Pompeo says the Treasury Department is also considering targeted sanctions. And President Trump is promising, quote, "some kind of retribution." Meanwhile, in Turkey where Khashoggi disappeared, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the journalist was killed in a premeditated political murder. He's rejected the Saudi claim that Khashoggi died in a botched interrogation carried out by rogue operatives.
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TURKEY RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: (Through interpreter) The information and the evidence that we have so far collected indicate that Jamal Khashoggi was slain in a vicious, violent murder. Whitewashing such barbarity will of course injure and wound the conscience of all humanity. And we are of course looking forward to the same sensitivity being demonstrated by the administration of Saudi Arabia and all other parties to this effect.
CORNISH: Now, for more on how this story and how it's playing out in Turkey and Saudi Arabia is NPR's Peter Kenyon - he's in Istanbul - and Deborah Amos. She's covered the region for many years. Welcome back, guys.
DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: Thank you.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi there.
CORNISH: So Peter, I want to start with you. What can you tell us more about what Erdogan had to say today?
KENYON: Well, he laid out some of what we know and added new details, including the fact that members of this 15-man Saudi team that showed up the day Khashoggi disappeared were tracked scouting out remote sites, including a forest, the idea being they might've been looking for a place to dump a body. All the details Erdogan added seemed aimed at knocking down the Saudis' version of events, their latest version that Khashoggi died accidentally after a fight broke out in the consulate. Erdogan didn't talk about alleged audio recordings investigators are said to have. But if his evidence holds up, the Saudi explanation does not. He said, who in the leadership gave the order? That's what he wants to know.
CORNISH: So, Peter, what else happened today?
KENYON: Well, the investigators searched a diplomatic vehicle. A Saudi consular vehicle found in a parking garage had been left there for two weeks. They found suitcases inside with some clothes that may belong to Saudi consular employees. We're still waiting confirmation. Also CIA Director Gina Haspel flew to Ankara to review evidence, and Erdogan spoke with Khashoggi family members and offered condolences.
CORNISH: Deb, the Saudis also reached out to Khashoggi's family. There were pictures released of his son meeting with the Saudi king and the crown prince. What more can you tell us about this?
AMOS: You know, the picture was striking. There you have the son of a slain journalist standing in front of the crown prince, who some say is linked to his death in Istanbul. This event overshadows a economic conference that opened today. This was supposed to be the capstone for the crown prince who wants to transform the Saudi economy, but many global executives pulled out. And they actually had to take the list of participants off the website. Here is the opening speech. It was given by a Saudi businesswoman, Lubna Olayan, and she had to address the concerns in the room.
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LUBNA OLAYAN: I want to tell all our foreign guests for whose presence with us this morning we are very grateful that the terrible acts reported in recent weeks are alien to our culture and our DNA. And I'm confident that with the support of the government, concerned authorities and leadership, the truth will emerge.
AMOS: Now, despite the cloud, there was somewhere around $30 billion of investment on the first day with Saudi Aramco. The crown prince made a surprise appearance, and he got a standing ovation. Also the Saudis made a very big deal out of U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin's visit. He pulled out of the conference, but he had a one-on-one meeting with the crown prince. That picture played in the Saudi media with headlines that said this relationship is crucial.
CORNISH: One striking aspect of this story has been the way that Turkey has handled it. And, Peter, I want to ask you about this 'cause ever since Khashoggi's disappearance, Turkish authorities have been revealing details about what they think happened kind of bit by bit each day.
KENYON: Yes. It certainly captured international attention, probably more so than the Saudis anticipated. The Americans are publicly involved at a very high level. Europeans have weighed in. But the Turks seem to be the ones firmly in control of what information is getting out when. And this approach partly stems from indignation and anger. They don't like the idea of a Saudi coming in and committing a murder and expecting to get away with it. Now, beyond that, are there geopolitical concerns here? If the crown prince's star is tarnished internationally, does Turkey somehow benefit? Now that's also something to watch.
CORNISH: And, Deb, what's been the response among Saudi citizens?
AMOS: It's still a bit hard to read. There's an atmosphere of fear in the kingdom, and the palace is hanging tough. The king has clearly backed his son. He's given him a job of reorganizing the intelligence service after some top officials were fired after this event. That's a strong vote of confidence.
You know, the Saudis say that these 18 men who were arrested will face justice in a Saudi court, but it's not altogether clear that they'll be allowed to properly defend themselves or if their testimony will be public. These are high-ranking military and security officials. You know, if they're seen as scapegoats, there could be a backlash. What hasn't changed in the kingdom is there are still dissidents in jail, including a group of women activists who haven't been charged. So this atmosphere of crackdown continues.
You know, now that the Saudis have said that Khashoggi is dead, that this was a rogue operation, a rendition gone bad, there have been public condolences for the family. The Arab News, where he got his start for his career, published tributes to the slain journalist. And while most Saudis have been afraid to offer an opinion publicly, this morning I got a message on a secure phone app favored by Saudis, and it said simply Don Corleone did it - period.
CORNISH: That's Deborah Amos speaking to us from Princeton University and also NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul. Thanks to you both.
KENYON: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.