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Riyadh Saturday dismissed Ankara’s calls to extradite 18 Saudis wanted for the murder of critic Jamal Khashoggi, as Washington warned the crisis risked destabilising the Middle East.
“The individuals are Saudi nationals. They’re detained in Saudi Arabia, and the investigation is in Saudi Arabia, and they will be prosecuted in Saudi Arabia,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a regional defence forum in Bahrain.
He was responding to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who on Friday renewed his call for the 18 men to be extradited for trial in Turkey.
Khashoggi, 59, who had lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 2017, vanished after entering the consulate on October 2 to obtain paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee.
Gruesome reports have alleged that he was murdered and his body dismembered by a team sent from Saudi Arabia to silence the Washington Post columnist, who had criticised Saudi’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
After weeks of denials, Riyadh has sought to draw a line under the crisis with an investigation.
Prince Mohammad, heir to the oil-rich nation’s throne, publicly denounced the murder as “repulsive”, while the Saudi prosecutor acknowledged for the first time this week that based on the evidence of a Turkish investigation the killing had been “premeditated”.
– ‘Undermining stability’ –
But US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, who was also addressing the Manama forum, warned that “the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a diplomatic facility must concern us all greatly”.
“Failure of any nation to adhere to international norms and the rule of law undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most,” he stressed.
Saudi authorities have arrested 18 men wanted by Ankara following the international furore over Khashoggi’s murder, which was reportedly carried out in the consulate by a team which flew to Istanbul.
Five intelligence chiefs have been sacked, including two who were part of the crown prince’s inner circle.