Erdogan: Saudi officials, others heard tapes of writer death

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to members of the media at the airport in Ankara, Turkey before departing to France, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. Erdogan said at the news conference that officials from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Germany, France and Britain have listened to audio recordings related to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Erdogan's comments were the first public confirmation of the existence of recordings of the Oct. 2 killing of The Washington Post columnist at the consulate. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says officials from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Germany, France and Britain have listened to audio recordings related to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul

ANKARA, Turkey — Officials from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Germany, France and Britain have listened to audio recordings related to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey's president said Saturday, in the first public acknowledgement of the existence of tapes of the slaying.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also told reporters that Saudi Arabia had to "act fairly" and disclose those responsible for the Oct. 2 killing of The Washington Post journalist to rid itself of "suspicion."

"We gave them the tapes. We gave them to Saudi Arabia, to America, to the Germans, the French, to the British, to all of them," Erdogan said before departing for Paris to attend ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

"They (Saudi officials) also listened to the conversations and they know. There is no need to distort this. They know for certain who among the 15 is the killer or are the killers," he said.

He was referring to an alleged 15-member assassination squad that Turkey believes was sent to kill Khashoggi at the consulate where he had arrived to obtain papers to marry his Turkish fiancee.

CIA Director Gina Haspel, who visited Turkey last month for information on the investigation, is reported to have heard the audio recordings of the killing. The existence of the recordings was leaked to the media but never openly confirmed until now.

Turkey says Khashoggi, who was critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was strangled and dismembered at the consulate as part of a premeditated killing. Media reports have suggested that his body could have been chemically dissolved.

Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 suspects who have been detained in Saudi Arabia, so they can be put on trial in Turkey. They include the 15 members of the alleged assassination squad.

Saudi Arabia had insisted for weeks after Khashoggi disappeared that he had walked out of the consulate, before changing its account to say he died in a brawl.

Last month, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that Turkish evidence indicates that Khashoggi's killing was premeditated, shifting its explanation in an apparent effort to ease international outrage over the death.

Saudi officials characterize the killing as a rogue operation carried out by Saudi agents who exceeded their authority. Yet some of those implicated in the killing are close to the crown prince, including a member of the prince's entourage on foreign trips who was seen at the consulate before Khashoggi's slaying.

Erdogan accused Saudi Arabia's chief prosecutor, who was sent to Istanbul last month as part of a joint probe, of employing "delaying tactics."

"Saudi Arabia needs to accept that (the killer) is among the 18 and needs to get rid of the suspicion by responding to Turkey's good will and acting fairly," Erdogan said.

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