Arrest warrants issued for Saudi ex-adviser al-Qahtani, intel official Asiri over Khashoggi murder

Published 05.12.2018 11:36
Updated 05.12.2018 15:29
In this Oct. 16, 2018, file photo, a security personnel is seen inside the entrance of the Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. (AA Photo)
In this Oct. 16, 2018, file photo, a security personnel is seen inside the entrance of the Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. (AA Photo)

A Turkish court issued arrest warrants for former Saudi Deputy Foreign Intelligence Chief Gen. Ahmed Asiri and Royal Court Adviser Saud Al-Qahtani over their roles in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Reuters reported earlier on Wednesday that the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office had applied to court seeking arrest warrants for Asiri and al-Qahtani, two figures close to Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, believing there is strong suspicion that they were among the planners of the murder, according to two senior Turkish officials.

The officials also said that Saudi Arabia could address international concern by extraditing all suspects in the murder to Turkey.

"The prosecution's move to issue arrest warrants for Asiri and al-Qahtani reflects the view that Saudi authorities won't take formal action against those individuals," one of the Turkish officials said.

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 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.

Answering to a question regarding the investigation at a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that the investigation continues and Turkey is determined to pursue the truth to the end. "If there is an obstacle, we will not hesitate to apply for an international investigation," Çavuşoğlu said.

"We asked for information on investigations in Saudi Arabia but couldn't get it. We share information but Saudi Arabia should also be transparent. Instead, we see conflicting remarks. On the other hand, [Khashoggi's] body still missing," Çavuşoğlu said.

UN rights chief calls for international investigation on Khashoggi murder

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday that an international investigation was needed to determine who was responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October.

Senior U.S. senators said on Tuesday they were more certain than ever that Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was responsible for the killing of Khashoggi after receiving a CIA briefing on the matter.

Bachelet, asked at news conference in Geneva about the need for an international inquiry, replied: "I do believe it is really needed in terms of ensuring what really happened and who are the (people) responsible for that awful killing."

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