October 22, 2018 / 10:54 AM / 22 days ago

Erdogan adviser dismisses Saudi explanation of Khashoggi killing

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - An adviser to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday dismissed a Saudi assertion that Jamal Khashoggi died in a fight in the kingdom’s Istanbul’s consulate, one of several accounts of the journalist’s disappearance to have emerged from Riyadh.

FILE PHOTO: Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi speaks at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor in London Britain, September 29, 2018. Middle East Monitor/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

“One cannot help but wonder how there could have been a ‘fistfight’ between 15 young expert fighters ... and a 60-year-old Khashoggi, alone and defenceless,” said Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Erdogan in his AK Party.

“It explains no aspect of the incident according to all the information reached - on the contrary, it leads to even more questions,” Aktay, who is also a close friend of Khashoggi, wrote in a column in Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak.

“The more one thinks about it, the more it feels like our intelligence is being mocked,” he wrote.

After two weeks denying involvement in his disappearance, Saudi Arabia said early on Saturday that Khashoggi, a critic of the country’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had died in a fight inside the building.

Within hours a senior Saudi official told Reuters that a team of 15 Saudi nationals sent to confront Khashoggi had threatened him with being drugged and kidnapped and then killed him in a chokehold when he resisted.

Then on Sunday Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that while he did not know exactly how Khashoggi had died, his killing was a “rogue operation” in which Saudi individuals had exceeded their authority.

“They made the mistake when they killed Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate and they tried to cover up for it,” Jubeir said.

The minister also sought to shield the crown prince from the aftermath of the incident, saying he had not been aware.

Aktay said the crown prince, known as MbS, had responded to criticism by attacking Turkey, and said Saudi Arabian media had written disparagingly about Khashoggi’s fiancee, his friend Turan Kislakci and Aktay himself.

“The ‘fistfight’ argument regarding Khashoggi’s death is a scenario which was hastily made up, as it became clear that all the details of the incident will soon come out,” Aktay wrote.

On Sunday, Erdogan said he would release information about the Turkish investigation at his weekly speech on Tuesday to members of his AK Party.

Reporting by Sarah Dadouch; Editing by Daren Butler, William Maclean

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