Duvar English / Reuters
A Saudi consulate worker in Istanbul told a Turkish court on July 3 he had been asked to light a tandoor oven less than an hour after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the building where he was killed.
Zeki Demir, a local technician who worked for the consulate, was giving evidence on the first day of the trial in absentia of 20 Saudi officials over Khashoggi’s killing, which sparked global outrage and tarnished the image of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.
Demir said he had been called to the consul’s residence after Khashoggi entered the nearby consulate to seek his papers.
“There were five to six people there... They asked me to light up the tandoor (oven). There was an air of panic,” he said.
Washington Post columnist Khashoggi was killed and disappeared from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, when he went there seeking papers for his marriage and his fiancee Hatice Cengiz waited unknowing outside.
After initially denying Khashoggi had died, the Saudi government admitted he was killed there and blamed the murder on a rogue group.
Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, said they believed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the hit - an accusation Saudi officials denied.
The indictment in the Istanbul case accuses two top Saudi officials, former deputy head of general intelligence Ahmed al-Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani, former adviser to the crown prince, of instigating "premeditated murder with monstrous intent."Istanbul prosecutors indict 20 Saudi suspects for Khashoggi killing
The indictment also says that 18 other defendants were flown to Turkey to kill Khashoggi, who had grown increasingly critical of the Saudi crown prince.
The defendants are being tried in absentia as they weren't handed over by Saudi Arabia, which has accused Turkey of failing to cooperate with the highly secretive trial on the case in Riyadh last year.
A Saudi court sentenced five people to death and three to jail for the killing in December of 2019, but Khashoggi's family later said they forgave his murderers, effectively granting them a formal reprieve under Saudi law.Slain journalist Khashoggi's sons forgive his killers, fiancee slams move
According to his testimony in the indictment, Demir reported seeing many skewers of meat and a small barbecue in addition to the oven in the consul’s garden. Marble slabs around the oven appeared to have changed color as if they had been cleaned with a chemical, the indictment reported him as saying.
Separate witness testimony in the indictment, from the consul’s driver, said the consul had ordered raw kebabs to be bought from a local restaurant.
Demir offered to help with the garage door when a car with darkened windows arrived, but he was told to leave the garden quickly, the indictment said.Sentences given in Khashoggi case far from shedding light on murder, Turkey says
Rights campaigners hope that the Istanbul trial will throw a fresh spotlight on the case and reinforce the argument for sanctions against Riyadh or for legal action against the suspects when they travel abroad.
Cengiz told Reuters this week she hoped the trial would reveal fresh evidence about her husband's killing, in particular over how his body was disposed of.