ISTANBUL – A Turkish court on Wednesday issued arrest warrants against two close associates of Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince and de facto leader, after prosecutors accused them of helping to prepare for the murder of the Saudi journalist. Jamal Khashoggi, The official Turkish news agency said.
The deputies, Major General Ahmed al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, are said to be in Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi government is unlikely to hand them over to the Turkish authorities. The warrants appeared to be part of a continuing effort by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to pressure Saudi Arabia to reveal more details about Khashoggi's murder, as well as to isolate the Crown Prince.
The warrants were issued a day after several US senators accused Mohammed of complicity in death, using some of the harshest terms. They carried the charges after CIA Director Gina Haspel informed them at an unusual session behind closed doors of evidence the agency had gathered in this case.
"If the Crown Prince appears before a jury, he will be convicted in 30 minutes," said Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) At the end of the briefing.
Senior Trump administration officials insisted that there was no evidence that Mr. Mohammed was directly involved. Saudi Arabia asserts that, although her investigation is still ongoing, she has already acquitted the Crown Prince.
Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post and sometimes critical of Mohammed, was killed by a team of Saudi agents shortly after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. His body was later dismembered, according to Turkish and Saudi prosecutors. His remains have not been found.
On Wednesday, Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for the opening of an international investigation into the killing. "I believe that it is really necessary to guarantee what has actually happened and who are the [people] responsible for this terrible assassination, "she said at a press conference in Geneva, according to the Reuters news agency.
Turkey also raised the possibility of an international investigation while vigorously pursuing its own investigation. Prosecutors on Tuesday called for arrest warrants against Assiri and Qahtani, based on a "strong suspicion" of being "among the planners" of Khashoggi's murder, according to excerpts of the prosecution request provided by a Turkish official.
The prosecutor's language places responsibility for death in the Crown Prince's restricted circle and leaves open the possibility that other senior Saudi officials be involved in his planning.
Assiri, an air force officer, served as spokesman for the Saudi military coalition fighting in Yemen before being named Saudi vice chief of intelligence in 2017, a promotion supposed to reflect his close ties with the Crown Prince.
Qahtani, a friend and close adviser to Mohammed, was considered the main law enforcement official, promoting the kingdom's aggressive social media policy and overseeing the crackdown on opponents and opponents of the government. Among them, Khashoggi, who has received several calls from Qahtani to try to persuade the journalist to end his exile in the United States and return to Saudi Arabia, said friends of Khashoggi.
A few weeks after the Khashoggi assassination, Saudi Arabia announced that Assiri and Qahtani had been fired from their posts. Saudi prosecutors linked the two men to a plot to bring Khashoggi back to life in Saudi Arabia, but blamed the murder on lower-ranking agents who allegedly acted outside their authority.
The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Qahtani and 16 other Saudi nationals last month for their involvement in Khashoggi's death. Qahtani was "part of the planning and execution" of the operation, says a statement from the US Treasury Department.
Although Saudi prosecutors said that Assiri issued the initial order to bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, he was not on the list of US sanctioned persons.