Saudi Arabia opens business summit as Turkey promises to reveal 'naked truth' of Khashoggi murder

Our Foreign Staff
Portraits of Saudi King Salman (R) and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on display in Riyadh as the city prepares for a major investment conference - AFP

Saudi Arabia opens an investment summit on Tuesday despite a wave of cancellations from policymakers and business leaders, and with Turkey's threat to reveal the "naked truth" over critic Jamal Khashoggi's murder casting a dark shadow over the gathering.

The three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII) was meant to project the insular petro-state as a lucrative business destination as it seeks to diversify and set the stage for new ventures and multi-billion dollar contracts.

But the summit, nicknamed "Davos in the desert", has been overshadowed by growing global outrage over the murder of Khashoggi inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

The chief executive of German industrial conglomerate Siemens Joe Kaeser was the latest among dozens of global executives to withdraw from the summit, hosted by the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund.

Ministers from the United States, Britain and France, which have huge defence deals at stake with Saudi Arabia, have already pulled out of the summit.

Corporate heads from JP Morgan to carmaker Ford and ride-hailing app Uber, as well as media powerhouses like Bloomberg, CNN and the Financial Times have all abandoned plans to attend.

Organisers have taken down a list of speakers from its website and on Monday refused to confirm the number of attendees.

And in a fresh setback, the forum's website went down on Monday after an apparent cyberattack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Meanwhile, Turkish sources have kept up a steady stream of leaks from their investigation into how the journalist died casting further doubt on the Saudi version of events - that Khashoggi died after an argument spiralled into a brawl.

Donald Trump said he was "not satisfied" with Riyadh's explanation of the death and world leaders are demanding answers.

On Monday, CNN broadcast images showing a Saudi official playing a body double for Khashoggi, wearing the journalist's clothes, exiting the consulate.

Omer Celik, spokesman of Mr Erdogan's ruling party, said the killing "was planned in an extremely savage manner," and that "there has been a lot of effort to whitewash this".

An Erdogan adviser, Yasin Aktay, wrote in the Yeni Safak daily that Riyadh's version of events "feels like our intelligence is being mocked".

The security official heading a team of 15 Saudis allegedly sent to Istanbul, called the head of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's office, Bader al-Asaker, "four times after the murder", the adviser added.

Abdulkadir Selvi, whose Hurriyet newspaper columns are closely watched for indications of Mr Erdogan's thinking, wrote that Khashoggi was slowly strangled to death before a Saudi forensic specialist cut his body into 15 pieces while listening to music.

"We cannot close this file until the crown prince is brought to account and removed from his post," said Selvi.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, a smooth former envoy to Washington, appeared on Fox News Sunday to blame a "rogue operation" by individuals who "exceeded their responsibilities" and then "tried to cover up for it".

After over two weeks of vehement denials, Saudi Arabia on Friday night admitted Khashoggi was killed in the consulate.