Saudi government operatives “dissolved” Jamal Khashoggi’s body after murdering and dismembering him, an adviser to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is also a friend of the slain Washington Post columnist, said on Friday.
Speaking to the Hurriyet newspaper, Yasin Aktay said that after the dissident Saudi journalist was strangled upon entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, his body was cut up into pieces to then make it easer to dissolve.
“We knew that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered,” Mr Aktay told the newspaper. “But now we see that they didn’t just cut it up, they dissolved the body. According to the latest information, the reason why they broke up the body is to make it dissolve more easily. It was meant to leave no trace of the body.”
The Washington Post, citing an unnamed Turkish official, also reported that Mr Khashoggi’s body had been dissolved using acid or another chemical agent.
The grim revelation, the latest in a series made by Turkish authorities about the murder, adds further pressure on Saudi authorities. They have been accused by Turkey of stonewalling the investigation in an attempt to protect the country’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from scrutiny over the killing.
On Friday, both the Post and the New York Timescited White House officials as saying that Prince Mohammed called officials close to President Donald Trump to smear Mr Khashoggi as a dangerous Islamist. After Saudi authorities admitted Riyadh operatives murdered him, Prince Mohammed lamented his killing as a “heinous crime”.
In Islam, a human corpse is considered sacred, which is why the mistreatment of the body could prove embarrassing for Saudi Arabia, a country that contains two of the holiest Islamic sites and bills itself as the leader of the Muslim world.
“The murder of an innocent person is one crime,” said Mr Aktay, who was the first government official contacted by Mr Khashoggi’s fiance, Hatice Cengiz, after he went missing. “The treatment of the body is a separate crime.”
Ms Cengiz made an impassioned plea for answers in a Post column, noting that Istanbul’s top prosecutor had already accused Saudi agents of strangling Mr Khashoggi and dismembering and destroying his body. “How barbaric and ruthless,” she wrote. “What crime did he commit for them to do this? What was the reason for them to murder him so brutally? There is no explanation for this hate.”
She also accused the Trump administration, which covets Saudi arms deals and has forged a close partnership with Prince Mohammed to counter Iran, of trying to sweep the Khashoggi matter under the rug.
“The Trump administration has taken a position that is devoid of moral foundation,” she wrote. “Some have approached this through the cynical prism of self-interest – statements framed by fear and cowardice; by the fear of upsetting deals or economic ties. Some in Washington are hoping this matter will be forgotten with simple delaying tactics. But we will continue to push the Trump administration to help find justice for Jamal. There will be no cover up.”