RIYADH, Oct 16 – Saudi Arabia is preparing a report that would admit Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (pic) was killed as the result of an interrogation that went wrong, CNN reported on Monday, citing two unnamed sources.
One source cautioned that the report was still being prepared and could change, CNN said. The other source said the report would likely conclude that the operation was carried out without clearance and that those involved will be held responsible, the cable news outlet said.
In WASHINGTON, Donald Trump has speculated that “rogue killers” may have been responsible for the presumed death of Jamal Khashoggi, as Turkish investigators finally gained access to the Saudi consulate, 13 days after the missing Washington Post columnist was last seen there.
Turkish officials were allowed into the consulate in Ankara only after Saudi staff, consular visitors and a team of cleaners equipped with mops, buckets and disinfectant had been allowed into the building.
The investigators arrived in unmarked black cars late on Monday, and made no comment to journalists outside the consulate. As night fell, a crime scene truck arrived, along with a police car with Ankara plates.
Every now and again, a bewildered Saudi citizen poked his or her head out of the wrought iron gate, before running the gauntlet of dozens of cameras.
It was unclear what evidence might still be available, nearly two weeks after Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Saudi Arabia has angrily rejected any suggestion it was involved in interrogating Khashoggi, who had visited the consulate on a planned trip in relation to his forthcoming marriage. It has offered no explanation for his disappearance or any pictures of him leaving the consulate.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Saudi monarch, King Salman, announced on Sunday night that a deal had been made for a “jointing working group” to examine the case, which gave a distinctly political feel to the probe.
The US president has threatened “severe punishment” if it turns out Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, but after speaking to the Saudi king by phone, Trump said on Monday that Salman “denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened” to the journalist.
“The denial was very, very strong,” Trump told reporters. “It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?”
“He told me in a very firm way that they had no knowledge of it. He said it very strongly,” Trump said.
The president’s claim that rogue elements may be responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance implies he accepts that the journalist has been murdered – but is seeking a way out of the crisis that somehow absolves the Saudi royal court.
Turkey has already published details of a group of 15 men – some from Saudi intelligence – who arrived in Istanbul at the time of Khashoggi’s disappearance. Nine of the men arrived on a private jet from Riyadh.
The Trump administration is a close political and commercial ally of the Saudi kingdom and would prefer to smooth over the crisis in relations between Turkey, and Riyadh – but is also under pressure to ensure a credible investigations takes place.
The case has provoked an international outcry, with European allies urging “a credible investigation” and accountability for those responsible.