The Turkish government has claimed that it has audio and video recordings that prove that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed after he entered the Saudi consulate 10 days ago.
What's on the audio?
On Oct. 2, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He was trying to finalize his divorce so that he could marry his fiancée, who was waiting for him outside. CCTV footage from outside the consulate shows him entering the building. He was never seen or heard from again.
A person “with knowledge of the recording,” according to the Washington Post, claimed that on the audio recordings “you can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic. You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”
Another person told the Post that the recording captured the sounds of someone beating up Khashoggi.
Despite claiming to have these recordings, the Turkish government has so far refused to release them, saying that doing so could reveal how it conducts surveillance.
The Saudi government has declined to turn over any video recordings of its own, claiming that its security cameras have only livestreams and that there are no recordings. Both Turkish and U.S. government officials questioned how this could be possible. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called this claim “pretty hard for me to believe.”
U.S. intelligence intercepts suggested that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind that disappearance. The crown prince has been applauded for his reforms, but he has also been brutal in punishing any opposition to his rise to power even imprisoning members of his own family.
Khashoggi was a frequent critic of the Saudi government.
Friends of Khashoggi told the Post that senior Saudi officials had reached out to him months ago to offer him protection if he would return to Saudi soil. Khashoggi did not believe that the Saudi government actually had his best interests in mind, and declined.
On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 22 senators led by Sens. Corker, Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting that the U.S. impose sanctions on any “foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi.”
Trump, however, has expressed reluctance to punish Saudi Arabia too severely. During a news conference Thursday, Trump was asked whether Khashoggi's disappearance would affect how the U.S. interacted with Saudi officials, including the crown prince. Trump responded:
We’ll have to see what happens. A lot of work is being done on that, and we’re going to have to see what happens. I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country on — I know they’re talking about different kinds of sanctions, but they’re spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others, for this country.
I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States. Because you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China, or someplace else. So I think there are other ways. If it turns out to be as bad as it might be, there are certainly other ways of handling the situation.
Later, Trump added that he agreed that the Saudis should pay a price if they were behind the disappearance but “first, I want to find out what happened.” He added that he didn't like the situation “even a little bit,” but he thought it “would not be acceptable” to stop the arms deal.