Symbolic funeral pays homage to Khashoggi as Turkey media claims more evidence

Jamal Khashoggi’s funeral (Youtube screengrab)

ISTANBUL: Dozens of people paid homage to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a symbolic funeral in Istanbul Friday as Turkish media claimed Ankara has a second audio tape discrediting Saudi Arabia’s version of the killing.

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.

Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi leadership, was last seen entering the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate on October 2. Turkish officials say he was strangled and his body dismembered.

“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 which took place under rain, “is 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.

Saudi prosecutors on Thursday announced indictments against 11 people and said 21 individuals were in custody in connection with the killing.

But they failed to link the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the crime.

Yasin Aktay, a close friend of Khashoggi and advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip 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 voice recording

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, of the moment shortly before the journalist arrived, 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.”

Turkey said the Saudi statement was “insufficient”, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu insisting: “Those who gave the command, as well as instigators, should also be clarified and this process should not be covered up.”