ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT
By Nilay Kar Onum
ISTANBUL (AA) - Turkey will continue its efforts to shed light on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the country’s president said on Sunday.
Writing an article in the Washington Post, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would continue pressing for the whereabouts of Khashoggi's remains and the identities of those responsible.
Underlining that many questions remained unanswered about the court proceedings in Saudi Arabia, he said: "The near-complete lack of transparency surrounding the trial, the lack of public access to hearings and the allegation that some of Khashoggi’s murderers enjoy de facto freedom fail to meet the international community’s expectations and tarnish the image of Saudi Arabia — something that Turkey, as its friend and ally, does not desire."
Erdogan described the Khashoggi's murder as "arguably the most influential and controversial incident of the 21st century, barring the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."
"No other event since 9/11 has posed such a serious threat to the international order or challenged the conventions that the world has come to take for granted," he said.
Erdogan decried the fact the alleged culprits travelled to Turkey on diplomatic passports, turned a "diplomatic building into a crime scene" and were assisted in the attempted coverup by Saudi Arabia's top diplomat in Istanbul, saying that these "set a very dangerous precedent."
"Perhaps more dangerous is the impunity that some of the killers seem to enjoy back in the kingdom," Erdogan added.
In the article, Erdogan said his administration "made a clear and unmistakable distinction between the thugs, who murdered Khashoggi and King Salman and his loyal subjects."
"Turkey’s response to The Post contributing columnist’s killing is based on our desire to uphold the rules-based international system. Hence our refusal to let the Khashoggi murder be portrayed as a bilateral dispute between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkey has always seen, and continues to see, the kingdom as its friend and ally," he stressed.
"Our long-standing friendship, however, does not necessarily entail silence. Quite the contrary, as the Turkish proverb goes, “A real friend speaks bitter truths.
"… we continue to see what happened as a question of justice rather than politics, and maintain that national and international courts alone can deliver justice," Erdogan wrote.
- Who signed Saudi journalist’s death warrant?
Describing Khashoggi’s "assassination" as not only a tragedy but a "blatant abuse of diplomatic immunity," the Erdogan said: “Going forward, Turkey pledges to continue its efforts to shed light on the Khashoggi murder."
"We will keep asking the same questions that I raised in an op-ed for this newspaper last year: Where are Khashoggi’s remains? Who signed the Saudi journalist’s death warrant? Who dispatched the 15 killers, including a forensic expert, aboard the two planes to Istanbul?
"It is in our best interest, and in the best interest of humanity, to ensure that such a crime is not committed anywhere again. Combating impunity is the easiest way to accomplish that goal. We owe it to Jamal’s family," he added.
Khashoggi was killed on Oct. 2, 2018, in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia initially denied any knowledge of his whereabouts after he went missing but later attempted to blame his death on a team of rogue operatives carrying out a botched rendition operation.
According to reports by the UN and other independent organizations, he was murdered and dismembered. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accepted responsibility for the killing of Khashoggi but denied ordering the murder.
The killing has sparked international outcry with the UN calling for an investigation into the role of bin Salman in carrying out the operation. Khashoggi's remains have not yet been found.