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Khashoggi killing: Turkey files extradition request for 18 Saudi suspects

Turkish request for Saudi Arabia to extradite suspects comes day after Saudi prosecutor said journalist's murder was premeditated
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey has more evidence related to case (Reuters)

Turkey has filed a request to extradite 18 Saudi suspects it said were involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the country's justice minister said.

Abdulhamit Gul confirmed on Friday that Ankara had formally requested that Saudi Arabia extradite the men.

"The Turkish authorities are determined and able to solve this case. We expect the extradition," the minister said in a statement.

The written request for extradition of the 18 suspects was prepared by Istanbul's chief prosecutor, Gul said.

Erdogan demands more detail from Saudi Arabia on Khashoggi
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He said the suspects would be tried on charges of premeditated murder and torture.

"It is clear that the judicial system in Turkey is better equipped to genuinely serve the cause of justice in this case," a senior Turkish official told AFP, because Khashoggi was "murdered in Turkey by Saudi nationals who travelled to Turkey for this specific purpose".

The requests come a day after the Saudi prosecutor said Khashoggi's killing on 2 October at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was premeditated, based on the findings of a Turkish investigation into what happened.

That was a sharp reversal for Saudi Arabia, which had previously insisted that Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed.

On Friday, Saudi officials said the journalist was killed after a fight broke out inside the building. They fired five top Saudi officials, including a former aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saud al-Qahtani, and arrested 18 others it said were involved in the crime.

Saudi Arabia has a lot it wants to hide. It doesn't want to turn over anyone who can reveal the full story

-Nader Hashemi, University of Denver

Turkish sources previously told Middle East Eye that a 15-man Saudi hit squad was dispatched to Istanbul to carry out Khashoggi's killing, several of whom are from the inner circle of bin Salman, often referred to by his initials, MBS.

Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, said he didn't think Saudi Arabia would agree to the extradition.

"I don’t think it's going to happen, largely because Saudi Arabia has a lot it wants to hide. It doesn't want to turn over anyone who can reveal the full story, specifically that can confirm the role that the crown prince has played in this drama," he told Middle East Eye.

"[The Saudis] just want to ride out this storm, go through the motions of cooperating with Turkey - and then hoping that the story will eventually fade and MBS will be able to rehabilitate his image on the global stage."

'Where is his body?'

Earlier on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had "more evidence" relating to Khashoggi's murder, and demanded that Saudi Arabia reveal who gave the order for him to be killed.

"The evidence of the murder of Khashoggi is obvious, but where is his body?" Erdogan said. "Saudi officials said that there is a local collaborator. Who is this local collaborator?"

He added that Turkey had "more evidence in our hands, but tomorrow is another day ... we are not in a hurry".

Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor is expected to meet the Turkish prosecutor in Istanbul on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Turkish media reported on Friday that investigators had searched a well at the house of the Saudi consul-general, but found no DNA evidence in the water.

Global pressure has been mounting on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Khashoggi (AFP)

Khashoggi's fiancee calls for justice to be served

Khashoggi, 59, who went into self-imposed exile in the United States last year, was not seen again after entering the consulate on 2 October to obtain paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.

A tearful Cengiz said in a TV interview on Friday that she never would have let Khashoggi enter the consulate if she had thought that the Saudi "authorities would hatch a plot" to kill him.

"I demand that all those involved in this savagery from the highest to the lowest levels are punished and brought to justice," Cengiz told Haberturk television. 

She said she had not been contacted by Saudi officials and that she was unlikely to go to Saudi Arabia for a possible funeral if Khashoggi's missing body is found. 

Cengiz also revealed that she had declined an invitation from US President Donald Trump to go to the White House, the BBC reported.

She told Turkish TV that she didn't believe Trump was being sincere about her fiance's killing and that she felt the invitation was meant to sway US public opinion.

I demand that all those involved in this savagery from the highest to the lowest levels are punished and brought to justice

-Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's fiancee

Saudi Arabia has sought to stem the crisis with its investigation, but a string of gruesome details about the murder have continued to appear in Turkish media.

According to Hashemi, "the future career of the crown prince lies in Erdogan's hands".

If Turkey makes evidence public that "implicates the crown prince, then ... [he] will not be able to survive this story," Hashemi said.

"This is now much more than simply a murder of a journalist; it's become in many ways a cause for many people."