Surveillance video has emerged of a ‘Saudi operative’ wearing Jamal Khashoggi’s clothes, fake glasses and a beard while leaving the building where the journalist was murdered.
As international accusations of a Saudi cover-up intensify, extraordinary footage appeared today showing a man wearing the Washington Post columnist’s clothes, leaving the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where Khashoggi was killed.
Images obtained by CNN show a member of the reported 15-man Saudi ‘hit squad’ leaving the consulate by the back door, as an apparent decoy shortly after Khashoggi’s murder.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to detail Mr Khashoggi’s killing “in all its nakedness”, raising international pressure on Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom’s claim on Saturday that Mr Khashoggi died in a “fistfight” was met with international scepticism and allegations of a cover-up to absolve the 33-year-old crown prince of direct responsibility.
Turkish media reports and officials maintain that a 15-member Saudi team flew to Istanbul on October 2, knowing Mr Khashoggi would arrive to pick up a document he needed in order to get married.
Once he was inside the diplomatic mission, reports also claimed the Saudis accosted 59-year-old Mr Khashoggi, cut off his fingers, then killed and dismembered him.
CNN broadcast surveillance footage showing a man in Mr Khashoggi’s dress shirt, suit jacket and trousers. It cited a Turkish official as describing the man as a “body double” and a member of the Saudi team sent to Istanbul to target the writer.
The man is seen in the footage walking out of the consulate via its back exit with an accomplice, then taking a taxi to Istanbul’s famed Sultan Ahmed Mosque, where he went into a public toilet, changed back out of the clothes and left.
The state-run broadcaster TRT also reported that a man who entered the consulate building was seen leaving the building in Mr Khashoggi’s clothes.
In the days after Mr Khashoggi vanished, Saudi officials initially said that he had left the consulate.
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“After Turkish authorities and the media were allowed to inspect the consulate building in its entirety, the accusations changed to the outrageous claim that he was murdered, in the consulate, during business hours, and with dozens of staff and visitors in the building,” Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman, a brother of the crown prince, wrote on October 8.
“I don’t know who is behind these claims, or their intentions, nor do I care frankly.”
The report in Yeni Safak said Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage on trips to the United States, France and Spain this year, made the calls from the consulate.
The newspaper said the four calls went to Bader al-Asaker, the head of Prince Mohammed’s office. It said another call went to the US.
Pro-government newspapers have been leaking information about Mr Khashoggi’s killing, apparently with the help of Turkish security forces.
Yeni Safak reported last week that Saudi officials cut off Mr Khashoggi’s fingers and then decapitated him at the consulate while his fiancee waited outside.
Saudi Arabia so far has not acknowledged or explained Mr Mutreb’s presence in Istanbul. It has also not explained how a forensics and autopsy expert was also on hand ahead of Mr Khashoggi’s arrival at the consulate.
Last week, a leaked photograph apparently taken from surveillance footage showed Mr Mutreb at the consulate, just before Mr Khashoggi arrived there.
Mr Mutreb’s name also matches that of a first secretary who once served as a diplomat at the Saudi Embassy in London, according to a 2007 list compiled by the British Foreign Office.
Meanwhile, Saudi state media reported that both Prince Mohammed and King Salman made calls to Mr Khashoggi’s son, Salah, early on Monday morning.
Statements from the agency said both the king and the crown prince expressed their condolences over Mr Khashoggi’s death.
A Saudi friend of Mr Khashoggi said that Salah Khashoggi had been under a travel ban and barred from leaving the kingdom since last year as a result of his father’s criticism of the government.
Five Turkish employees of the consulate also gave testimonies to prosecutors, Turkish media reported.
Istanbul’s chief prosecutor had summoned 28 more staff members of the Saudi consulate, including Turkish citizens and foreign nationals, to give evidence.
Some Turkish employees reportedly said they were instructed not to go to work around the time Mr Khashoggi disappeared.
Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News that Mr Khashoggi’s killing was “a rogue operation” and that “we don’t know where the body is”.
He added: “The individuals who did this, did this outside the scope of their authority.
“There obviously was a tremendous mistake made and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up. That is unacceptable to the government.”