Istanbul's top prosecutor issued arrest warrants for two close allies of Saudi Arabia's crown prince on Wednesday, in connection with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Turkish officials told Reuters that former Mohammed bin Salman aide Saud al-Qahtani and former deputy intelligence chief General Ahmed al-Asiri are suspected of helping to orchestrate the Oct. 2 killing. Both men were fired from their posts in the Saudi government during the course of the kingdom's initial investigation.
What are the details?
The Turkish government has insisted that the ordering of Khashoggi's murder came from the highest levels of the Saudi royal family —namely, Crown Prince bin Salman — and is seeking the extradition of all suspects to Istanbul. One official told Reuters, "The prosecution's move to issue arrest warrants for Asiri and Qahtani reflects the view that the Saudi authorities won't take formal action against those individuals."
"The international community seems to doubt Saudi Arabia's commitment to prosecute this heinous crime," the official continued. "By extraditing all suspects to Turkey, where Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered, the Saudi authorities could address those concerns."
Last month, Saudi Arabia arrested 21 suspects linked to the murder, and the kingdom's Public Prosecutor's office is seeking the death penalty in five of those cases. The U.S. has issued sanctions against 17 individuals believed to have been part of the conspiracy against Khashoggi, including al-Qahtani. Al-Asiri was not included on the Treasury Department's list.
On Tuesday, CIA Director Gina Haspel met with a group of U.S. senators in a closed-door briefing, after which several lawmakers told the media they're convinced that bin Salman was connected to Khashoggi's death.
Several Republicans have called for harsher penalties against Saudi Arabia in reaction to the determination made by America's top spy agency, urging the Trump administration to take further actions beyond its sanctions against individuals in the matter.
The allegations against the crown prince further complicate the relationship between the U.S. and its longtime ally, who is seen as a counterweight against Iran in the Middle East. President Trump seeks to hold together a $110 billion arms deal he brokered with Saudi Arabia last year, but faces mounting pressure from members of Congress who are casting doubt on whether a continued alliance with the kingdom serves U.S. interests.