Saudi FM reiterates rejection of extradition to Turkey for Khashoggi suspects

Published 09.12.2018 20:42
Updated 10.12.2018 18:33
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir arrives for a press conference at the Diriya Palace in the Saudi capital Riyadh during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit on Dec. 9, 2018. (AFP Photo)
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir arrives for a press conference at the Diriya Palace in the Saudi capital Riyadh during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit on Dec. 9, 2018. (AFP Photo)

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Sunday reiterated the kingdom's rejection of demands to extradite suspects connected to the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi as sought by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

"We do not extradite our citizens," Adel al-Jubeir said when asked about a Turkish court's arrest order for two Saudi suspects at a news conference at the end of a summit of Gulf Cooperation Council states.

"It's interesting to me that a country that would not provide us with information within a legal format... would issue arrest warrants," he said.

The Turkish Presidency's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun called Riyadh's refusal to extradite the suspects very disappointing and said it would play into the hands of critics "who believe Saudi Arabia has been trying to cover up the murder".

Speaking to Reuters, Altun said Saudi authorities had not been sufficiently cooperative and Turkey had seen "little evidence of the Saudi prosecutors intending to shed light on what happened to Mr. Khashoggi".

Therefore "it will be in the best interest of the international community to seek justice for the late Saudi journalist under international law," Altun said, reiterating Turkey's call for an international probe into the case.

Turkey's foreign minister said last month Ankara may seek a formal United Nations inquiry if its dealings with Saudi Arabia came to an impasse, but Altun's comments appeared to be the most direct call yet to widen the investigation.

Altun said Saudi intelligence operatives, including an autopsy expert, traveled to Istanbul for the specific purpose of killing Khashoggi. The Saudi consul "was apparently complicit in this crime", he added.

Istanbul's chief prosecutor last week filed warrants for the arrest of Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri, who served as deputy head of foreign intelligence.

Turkish officials said the prosecutor's office had concluded there was "strong suspicion" that the two suspects were among the planners of Khashoggi's Oct. 2 killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The Saudi public prosecutor has said the order to repatriate Khashoggi came from Asiri and that a travel ban has been imposed on Qahtani. Jubeir declined to confirm or deny whether the men were currently detained, referring the question to the Saudi public prosecutor.

Khashoggi was killed in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2 by a team of 15 people consisting of Saudi officials who arrived in Turkey for his murder and a cover-up operation, including dismembering Khashoggi's body. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey.

Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder. After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh later said Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.

Saudi authorities launched an investigation against 21 people including Asiri and al-Qahtani over the murder, detaining some of the suspects and seeking the death penalty for five.

Asiri and al-Qahtani were sacked from their positions, according to a statement released on Oct. 20.

Turkey has been seeking the extradition of 18 suspects, including 15 members of the assassination squad.

Turkish officials have repeatedly offered for the trial against the murder to be held in Turkey, where the crime was committed. Saudi authorities have denied Turkey's requests and said the suspects will be tried in the kingdom.

With the court's decision, Turkey could now issue an international arrest warrant for the suspects to be detained anywhere in the world.

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