This is a transcript of the briefing Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave to the parliamentary group of the governing AK Party about the murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi agents killed the journalist in Istanbul on October 2.
Remarks by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday to the governing AK Party's parliamentary group in Ankara, on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi:
I would like to talk about the murder of the of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul. First of all, I wish God's Peace on the soul of the late Jamal Khashoggi, and my condolences to the fiancee, family, friend and compatriots in Saudi Arabia.
First let's have a small refresher.
Jamal Khashoggi first entered Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate on Friday, September 28, at 11:50, for marriage paperwork.
It is understood the team that planned and carried out the murder was informed about Khashoggi’s visit.
The fact that some consular officials went to their home country [Saudi Arabia] in a hurry indicates that the preparation work and planning was done there.
On October 1, at 16:30, a team of three people arrive in Istanbul on a chartered flight, checks into a hotel first, then goes to the consulate.
In the meantime, another team from the consulate goes on a reconnaissance mission in Belgrad Forest in Istanbul and Yalova.
On October 2, at 01:45, the second group of three people arrives in Istanbul on another chartered flight and checks into a hotel.
The third group of nine people, including generals, arrives in Istanbul on a private flight and goes to another hotel.
This team of 15 people in total arrives in the consulate separately between 09:50 and 11:00 and regroups there.
First, the hard drive of the consulate’s CCTV system is removed. And Jamal Khashoggi at 11:50 was called to confirm his appointment that day.
Khashoggi, who arrived in Istanbul from London in the early hours of the same day, walks into the consulate at 13:08.
Of course, his fiancee is with him.
And after that time, nothing is heard of him.
[Editor's note: Khashoggi's fiancee was with him outside the consulate. She waited outside when Khashoggi went in.]
Fiancee raises alarm
Khashoggi’s fiancee contacted Turkish authorities at 17:50 saying that he might have been detained by force, or something might have happened to him.
As a result, the Istanbul Police Department immediately launched an investigation.
Upon inspection of CCTV footage, it became clear that Khashoggi had not left the consulate building.
In accordance with the Vienna Convention [on Consular Relations], no action was taken regarding the consulate building and its staff, as they were under the protective cover of diplomatic immunity.
[Erdogan mentions that the question of the Vienna Convention and diplomatic immunity are not closed.]
As our police and intelligence forces dug deeper into the issue, our Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an official investigation.
As the investigation advances, interesting facts have emerged.
Starting from the day before the murder, it became known that 15 Saudi security, intelligence personnel, and forensic specialists arrived in our country.
Six of those people left the country on the evening of October 2nd at 18:20, and the remaining 7 left at 22:50 on private planes.
The person who attempted to disguise himself to look like Jamal Khashoggi with his clothes, glasses and beard—along with another individual accompanying him—also left after midnight for Riyadh on a commercial flight.
The staff at work at the consulate on that day were confined to a room on the grounds that there was an inspection taking place. The staff who were not present were given permission to not come to work, on the same grounds.
The Saudi Arabian administration denied the allegations regarding Khashoggi’s killing in a statement made on October 4.
Moreover, the Consul General of Saudi Arabia on October 6 invited a Reuters reporter into the consulate showing them closets, doors, and electricity panels in a reckless attempt to defend himself.
Meanwhile, our police and intelligence units as well as our prosecutors keep digging deep and uncovered new information and documents.
Our foreign ministry has been in constant discussion and shared information with their counterparts.
Saudi Arabian delegation arrives in Turkey
A delegation of representatives from Saudi Arabia came to our country on October 11 and established contact points.
The Saudi authorities announced that they would allow the search of the consulate building, as a result of the issue's consistent presence on Turkey's and the global media agenda.
My dear friends...
Of course, first, some things must be asked, and the answers must be sought, because this incident takes place in Istanbul and we have a responsibility. So as those in a position of responsibility it is our right to question this.
As the fog around the issue began to dissipate, other countries also began to act.
We have stated that under no circumstance will we remain silent about this murder, and that we will take any steps required by conscience and law.
In addition, we waited for the results of the investigations so as to not misjudge anyone.
In the first phone call we made with Salman bin Abdulaziz, the King of Saudi Arabia, on October 14, we explained the matter to him and everything we have discovered.
We agreed to establish a joint investigation team, which has begun its work.
Upon the king’s order, teams containing prosecutors and members of the police department entered the Saudi consulate and searched the premises.
Of course, as the consul general had not allowed this, I spoke to the delegation who had come in about the insufficiency of this consul general, which I reiterated to the king. And the day after we spoke the consul general was removed from his post.
During this time, the Saudi consul general in Istanbul returned to his country.
On October 18, another search of the consulate took place.
Seventeen days after the murder, on October 19, the Saudi Arabian administration officially admitted that Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate building.
In a statement made by the Saudi administration, it was said that Khashoggi had perished during a brawl that took place inside the consulate.
On the night of that very same day we had another phone call with King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
After the admission of the murder, it was expressed that the 18 people involved in the incident were arrested.
The list of people given to us was determined to be the same names that our security and intelligence personnel had identified as being involved in the incident.
The victim of a brutal murder
These developments are of course important in reaching an official admission of murder.
On October 21, we were on the phone with the US President Donald Trump, agreeing to bring these events into the light.
As a country, Turkey managed this process with the utmost due diligence, in line with international law and our legislative system.
Despite this fact, various media organisations carried out smear campaigns targeting Turkey to implicate our country and to distract people from focusing on the actual targets.
We know who is behind these smear campaigns and what their motivations are. These plots to destroy the reputation of our country could not and will not stop us from uncovering the truth of this matter.
Before anything else, this murder took place in Saudi Arabia’s consulate building which is considered Saudi soil.
However, it should be remembered that it is still within Turkey's borders.
Furthermore, the Vienna Convention, as well as other forms of international law, cannot allow the investigation of such a brutal murder to be concealed under diplomatic immunity.
We will surely investigate this murder committed within our borders.
Furthermore, Jamal Khashoggi is not just a Saudi citizen but also an internationally renowned journalist, which gives us an additional responsibility on an international level.
Turkey is following up on this matter not just as a matter of its right to sovereignty, but also on behalf of the international community and the collective conscience of humanity.
All the information and evidence that has been uncovered thus far lead to the conclusion that Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a gruesome murder.
Concealing such an atrocity would hurt the collective conscience of humanity.
We expect the same sensitivity from all parties in the matter, especially the Saudi Arabian administration.
Saudi Arabia has taken significant steps
My dear friends ...
The Saudi administration has taken a significant step by admitting to the murder.
From now on, we expect them to openly identify all of those responsible in the event, from the highest to the lowest level, and punish them before the law.
We have strong indications that the murder was not the result of a spontaneous event but that of a planned operation.
In light of the existing information, these questions continue to be on people’s minds:
Why did the 15 people, all connected to the event, meet in Istanbul on the day of the murder?
On whose orders did these people come?
Why was the consulate building opened for investigation days after [the event] and not immediately?
Why were there so many inconsistent statements made despite it being so obvious that it was a murder?
Why is the body of a person who was admittedly murdered still absent?
If the statement that the body was given to a local accomplice is true, then who is this local accomplice?
No one should think that this matter will be closed before all of these questions are answered.
Some of the information that our police and intelligence units are still evaluating already points towards the event being a planned operation.
As the assessment of the information is completed, it will be added into the prosecutor’s case.
Blaming this on some security and intelligence officers will satisfy neither us nor the international community.
The conscience of humanity will only be satisfied when all those from the person who gave the order to anybody who carried it out are brought to account.
Personally, I do not doubt the sincerity of the Custodian of the Two Mosques, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz.
An impartial investigation is needed
With that said, it is of utmost importance that such a critical investigation be led by a truly impartial and just committee — nobody connected to the murder should be a part of the investigation team.
Considering that this was a political killing, accomplices in various different countries — if they do exist — have to be investigated.
This is required by international law, Islamic law and, I believe, also by Saudi law.
As Turkey, we will follow this matter until the very end, making sure that whatever international law and our legislation require will get done.
In fact, I am making a call from here today. This call is to the high-level officials, primarily King Salman bin Abdul Aziz. The incident took place in Istanbul. Therefore the adjudication of these 15 plus three, these 18 people, should be carried out in Istanbul. That is my proposal.
The decision is at his discretion. But this is my proposal, my request, because this is where the incident occurred. That is why it's important.