Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that the order to kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was issued at the “highest levels” of Saudi Arabia's government.
"We know that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government," Erdogan wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post.
"Failure to punish the perpetrators could set a very dangerous precedent," he added.
Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was critical of his government and of Deputy Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He had returned to the consulate from a previous visit to obtain the necessary papers to marry Hatice Cengiz, his Turkish fiancee. He was initially reported missing when he did not reemerge.
For two weeks, the Saudi government denied any connection to Khashoggi’s death. Later, on Oct. 19, they admitted that the journalist died in the consulate but provided conflicting reports — one account claimed he was killed during a “fistfight” and another said he died in a chokehold. As a result, five top Saudi officials were fired, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s adviser Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiriand, and 18 others were arrested.
The Crown Prince alleged that he had no knowledge of the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death and “certainly did not order a kidnapping or murder of anybody,” a Saudi official said Oct. 20.
Advisors to Erdogan said Friday that the team that killed Khashoggi in Istanbul dismembered his body in order to dissolve it for easier disposal, the newspaper Hurriyet reported.
Erdogan said he did not believe the order came from King Salman of Saudi Arabia or that the murder reflected the country's official policy. However, he urged the kingdom to reveal those responsible.
"As responsible members of the international community, we must reveal the identities of the puppet-masters behind Khashoggi’s killing and discover those in whom Saudi officials — still trying to cover up the murder — have placed their trust," Erdogan said.