ANKARA — An audio recording tracking the dying moments of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul has been shared with Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and Germany in addition to the United States, the Turkish president said Saturday.
“We gave it to Saudi Arabia,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke at Ankara airport before departing for Paris for commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. “We gave it to America. To the Germans, French, English, we gave it to all of them.”
The tape is a critical piece of evidence that Turkey says backs up its assertion that Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post World Opinions section, was killed by a Saudi hit team after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2.
Saudi Arabia now acknowledges that Khashoggi was killed, but its internal investigation has not implicated leaders including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
[Erdogan: Order to kill Khashoggi came from ‘highest levels’ in Saudi Arabia]
Two Turkish officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic, said that the audio makes clear that Khashoggi suffered a drawn out death. He is choked for around seven minutes before he dies, they said.
One said he had been told directly by the president that the killers took seven and a half minutes to choke Khashoggi to death. The other, said he had been briefed by someone who had heard it. Neither said they had heard the tape.
Turkey has not said how it obtained a recording from inside the consulate. Wiretapping of foreign missions breaches the Vienna Convention. Turkish newspapers had run stories on how the recording was made by Khashoggi’s Apple Watch, a scenario that was met with skepticism by experts.
[Khashoggi’s sons appeal for his remains]
As Turkey has ratcheted up pressure on Saudi Arabia through leaks to the press on the gruesome killing, Saudi Arabia has been forced to shift its story. It initially insisted that Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after he entered, but now admits he was intentionally killed inside.
“Erdogan can afford for this crisis to play out in a number of different ways, given the strength of his position,” said one Western diplomat, who declined to be named in line with protocol. “He has a media infrastructure that works for him, and power is pretty much centralized.”
Turkey has said the killing was carried out by a 15-man Saudi hit squad that traveled to Istanbul from Saudi Arabia to kill him. Erdogan has previously said the orders came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
“The murder or murders are definitely within this 15,” he said. “The Saudi Arabian administration will succeed in revealing this by making these 15 people talk.”
Turkish officials had repeatedly complained about a lack of cooperation on the part of Saudi Arabia in the investigation, saying that Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor, who visited Istanbul last month, did not share any information.
The Saudi prosecutor was unhelpful, Erdogan said. “And then they invite our chief prosecutor there,” he said. “The scene of the crime is here.”
Saudi Arabia has said it has arrested 18 people involved in the killing.
“They are not telling the whole truth,” said another Turkish official. “There is an important person behind this and they have to explain.”
Zeynep Karatas in Istanbul contributed to this report.
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