Members of a Saudi team sent to Turkey to help investigate the murder of Jamal Khashoggi instead worked to cover up evidence of the Washington Post columnist’s death, Turkish officials said Monday.
The officials alleged that senior Saudi leaders sent a chemist and a toxicologist to Istanbul with the task of cleaning the scene of the Saudi Arabian consulate before Turkish detectives could investigate.
"We believe that the two individuals came to Turkey for the sole purpose of covering up evidence of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder before the Turkish police were allowed to search the premises," a senior Turkish official said.
If the Turkish allegations is confirmed, it raises questions over whether the Saudi leadership was secretly authorising a cover up at a time when it was still publicly insisting that Mr Khashoggi had walked out of the consulate alive.
Saudi Arabia did not immediately respond to the latest allegation.
Meanwhile, Mr Khashoggi’s two adult sons spoke publicly for the first time since their father’s death and appealed for his body to be found so that it could be buried in the family plot in Medina, the second holiest city in the Islamic faith.
"All what we want right now is to bury him in Al-Baqi [cemetery] in Medina with the rest of his family," Salah Khashoggi told CNN. "I talked about that with the Saudi authorities and I just hope that it happens soon.”
Mr Khashoggi’s body has still not been found, and Turkish officials have expressed disbelief at Saudi claims that they do not know where it is.
Salah Khashoggi was summoned to the royal palace in Saudi Arabia where he met with King Salman and Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince who is alleged to have ordered his father’s death.
The younger Mr Khashoggi said he had faith in the king’s promise to find everyone responsible for killing his father.
"The king has stressed that everybody involved will be brought to justice. And I have faith in that. This will happen. Otherwise Saudi wouldn’t have started an internal investigation," he said.
Saudi Arabia claims that Mr Khashoggi’s death was a “rogue” operation and was not authorised by Crown Prince Mohammed or other senior Saudi figures.
A Saudi delegate told a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council on Monday that the kingdom was committed to “reaching all facts and bringing all the perpetrators to justice”.
News of the alleged Saudi cover up effort was first reported in the Daily Sabah, a pro-government Turkish newspaper to which Turkish officials have often leaked details of their investigation.
Turkish officials later confirmed the report to Western media. They identified the two men as Ahmed Abdulaziz Al-Janobi, a chemist, and Khaled Yahya al-Zahrani, a toxicology expert.
The two men were part of a Saudi team which arrived in Istanbul on October 11, nine days after Mr Khashoggi was murdered on October 2.
The team was officially sent to Istanbul as part of a joint investigation but Turkish officials claimed that at least two members of the team were secretly working to sabotage the search for the truth.
The two men allegedly visited the consulate every day from October 11 until October 17 to destroy evidence. Turkish police were only allowed inside the consulate on October 15.
Saudi Arabia did not admit that Mr Khashoggi had been killed until October 20. Prior to that the kingdom maintained that he had safely left the consulate.
If the Turkish allegations are true, it would appear that Saudi officials were secretly covering up evidence of a murder while publicly insisting that Mr Khashoggi had not been harmed inside the consulate.
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