The order to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi came from the “highest levels” of Saudi government, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed, as he called for the “puppetmasters” to be unmasked.
Mr Erdogan wrote he did not believe “for a second” that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman had ordered “the hit”, in an opinion article for The Washington Post, although he refrained from directly accusing the Middle Eastern kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Mr Khashoggi, a columnist for the newspaper, frequently criticised the Saudi government. He disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.
The Saudi government initially insisted Mr Khashoggi had left the consulate, but later admitted that he died in an unplanned “rogue operation”. The kingdom’s public prosecutor Saud Mojeb subsequently said that the attack was premeditated.
Accusing the Saudi consul in Istanbul of lying “through his teeth”, Mr Erdogan accused Mr Mojeb of refusing to cooperate, stalling the process and not answering simple questions.
“As responsible members of the international community, we must reveal the identities of the puppetmasters behind Khashoggi’s killing,” he wrote. He added that the Saudi officials who were still trying to cover up the killing should be discovered.
In a stern warning to Turkey’s near neighbour, he said: ”No one should dare to commit such acts on the soil of a Nato ally again. If anyone chooses to ignore that warning, they will face severe consequences.”
The opinion piece was published less than 24-hours after one of his advisers said Saudi government operatives had “dissolved” Mr Khashoggi’s body after murdering and dismembering him.
Yasin Aktay, who was also a friend of the slain columnist, told the Hurriyet newspaper that Mr Khashoggi was strangled upon entering the Saudi consulate, 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.”
Citing an unnamed Turkish official, The Washington Post also reported that Mr Khashoggi’s body had been dissolved using acid or another chemical agent.
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.”