Istanbul: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Donald Trump Friday agreed on the need to prevent any cover-up of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, a Turkish presidential source said after a phone call between the two leaders.
Turkish media claimed Ankara has more evidence, including a second audio tape discrediting Saudi Arabia’s version of Khashoggi’s killing.
Erdogan and Trump “agreed to shed light on the Jamal Khashoggi murder in all its aspects and that any cover-up of the incident should not be allowed,” the presidential source said.
The phone call came a day after Saudi prosecutors announced charges of ordering and carrying out the murder against five men and said they would be recommending the death penalty. The US placed sanctions on 17 suspected of involvement.
The prosecutors also exonerated the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of directing the killing.
– Symbolic funeral-
Khashoggi’s son Salah on Friday received dozens of mourners including Saudi officials and businessmen in the coastal city of Jeddah, an AFP photographer saw, while state media said funeral prayers were offered in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Last month, Salah traveled to Washington after the government lifted a travel ban, where he told CNN that he wanted to bury his father in Medina with the rest of his family.
Dozens of people meanwhile paid homage to Khashoggi at a symbolic funeral in Istanbul.
In the absence of a body, the crowd gathered at Fatih mosque in front of an empty platform traditionally reserved for the coffin.
Supporters from the newly-formed Jamal Khashoggi Friends Association were among the mourners.
“We decided to hold the prayers as we are convinced that his body will never be found,” Fatih Oke, executive director of the Turkish-Arab Media Association (TAM) of which Khashoggi was a member, told AFP.
The ceremony was “a message delivered to the world to say that the murder will not go unpunished and that justice will be served,” said Ibrahim Pekdemir, an Istanbul resident who attended.
Yasin Aktay, a close friend of Khashoggi and advisor to Erdogan, strongly criticised the Saudi version of events.
“They want us to believe that the killers themselves made the decision to assassinate Jamal Khashoggi, we do not believe in this story,” he said after the prayer.
“We will continue to ask who are the true contractors” of the murder.
Turkey has insisted it was a premeditated killing.
– Second audio tape –
The Turkish daily Hurriyet reported, meanwhile, that Turkey has more evidence, including a second audio tape of 15 minutes, contradicting the Saudi version of events.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has blamed the murder on a “rogue operation” by individuals who “exceeded their responsibilities”.
Abdulkadir Selvi, a pro-government columnist in the Hurriyet daily, claimed Friday that the newly-obtained audio tape proved that a 15-member “killer team” waiting in the consulate before Khashoggi’s arrival was discussing how to carry out the murder.
The tape, recorded shortly before the journalist arrived to obtain paperwork for his forthcoming marriage to a Turkish woman, clearly showed the murder was planned in advance, he said.
The first tape allegedly proved that Khashoggi was strangled.
Turkey also has evidence that the team made international calls after the murder, said Selvi.
Erdogan has said the order to murder Khashoggi came from “the highest levels” of the Riyadh government, but stopped short of pointing the finger at Crown Prince Salman.
Saudi prosecutors said Thursday they would seek the death penalty for five accused who “are charged with ordering and committing the crime.”
But they said the prince had “no knowledge” of Khashoggi’s killing.
Turkey said the Saudi statement was “insufficient”, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying Ankara was not fully satisfied with the Saudi thesis.
The US sanctions targeted two top aides of Prince Mohammed as well as Mohammed Alotaibi, who was the consul general in the Istanbul consulate when Khashoggi was murdered.
But senior US politicians said Thursday the moves were far from adequate.