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Saudi explanation decried

Turkey will "never allow a coverup" of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, a senior official in Turkey's ruling party said Saturday, reflecting international skepticism over the Saudi account that the writer died during a "fistfight."

The comment was one of many critical reactions to the Saudi Arabia's announcement of the writer's violent death, indicating the kingdom's efforts to defuse a scandal that has gripped the world were falling short. U.S. President Donald Trump, however, was an exception. Asked whether he thought the Saudi explanation was credible, he replied: "I do. I do."

Despite widespread outrage over the killing of the columnist for The Washington Post, it is unclear to what extent the top leadership of Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally and a powerful player in a volatile region, would be held accountable for what human rights activists describe as an extrajudicial killing by Saudi agents.

The only way to find out what happened would be through an international investigation led by a U.N.-appointed panel, the editorial board of The Washington Post said.

Saudi Arabia's "latest version asks us to believe that Mr. Khashoggi died after becoming engaged in a "brawl" with officials who had been sent to meet him. His body, Saudi officials told several journalists, was handed over to a "local collaborator" for disposal," it said, while also criticizing Trump for allegedly trying to help top Saudi leaders escape "meaningful accountability."

Saudi Arabia said 18 Saudi suspects were in custody and intelligence officials had been fired. But critics believe the complex scheme that led to Khashoggi's death could not have occurred without the knowledge of Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old crown prince whose early promises of sweeping reform are being eclipsed by concerns that he is an impulsive, even sinister figure.

The Saudi narrative of Khashoggi's death, alleged to have occurred in a brawl following discussions with visiting officials in the consulate, contrasts with Turkish pro-government media reports that a Saudi hit squad, including an autopsy expert, travelled to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi and dispose of his body, which has not yet been found.

"It's not possible for the Saudi administration to wiggle itself out of this crime if it's confirmed," said Numan Kurtulmus, deputy head of Turkey's Justice and Development Party. He also said Turkey would share its evidence of Khashoggi's killing with the world and that a "conclusive result" of the investigation is close.

Another Turkish ruling party official also criticized Saudi Arabia, saying the kingdom should have given its explanation "before the situation reached this point."

The official, Leyla Sahin Usta, said it would have been "more valuable" if Saudi officials had earlier admitted that Khashoggi was killed in its diplomatic post.

Saudi Arabia initially denied any knowledge of the disappearance of Khashoggi, who disappeared after entering its consulate.



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