By Gulsen Solaker
ANKARA (Reuters) – The Turkish lawyer looking into the death of Jamal Khashoggi has asked Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor to disclose who sent the team involved in the journalist’s killing, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.
Saudi prosecutor Saud Al Mojeb held talks with Istanbul’s prosecutor on Monday and Tuesday about Khashoggi’s death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which has escalated into a crisis for the world’s top oil exporter.
Riyadh at first denied any knowledge of or role in, his disappearance four weeks ago but Mojeb has contradicted those statements, saying the killing of Khashoggi, a critic of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was premeditated.
The case has put into focus the West’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia – a major arms buyer and lynchpin of Washington’s regional plans to contain Iran – given the widespread skepticism over its initial response.
Turkey has kept up the pressure on the Saudis, demanding a full explanation and releasing a steady flow of evidence which undermined Riyadh’s early denials.
Saudi Arabia says that 18 suspects in the case will face justice in the kingdom, despite repeated calls from Ankara for them to be extradited for trial in Turkey.
“Yesterday, our prosecutor told the Saudi prosecutor that the prosecution could be carried out in Turkey since the location of the crime is Istanbul,” Erdogan told reporters at Turkey’s parliament.
Saudi officials also needed to disclose who had sent a 15-strong team to Istanbul to carry out the operation targeting Khashoggi, as well as the identity of a local agent said to have helped dispose of his body.
“Our prosecutor asked who sent the group that came here and said that this needed to be looked at,” Erdogan said. “Saudi officials need to reveal the local cooperators. Let us know whoever this person is and we will find them.
“We cannot leave this issue unsolved, we need to solve it now. There is no point in procrastinating or trying to save some people from under this.”
Saudi prosecutor Mojeb held talks with Istanbul’s chief prosecutor, Irfan Fidan, at Istanbul’s main courthouse for a second time on Tuesday before heading for the consulate where Khashoggi was killed, Turkish broadcaster NTV reported.
On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on Riyadh to conclude the investigation as soon as possible.
“The whole truth must be revealed,” he said. “We believe (Mujeb’s) visit is important for these truths to come out.”
(Additional reporting by Daren Butler in Istanbul and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Editing by Dominic Evans, Richard Balmforth)