An audio recording of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a “true disaster” that “shocked” the Saudi intelligence officer who heard it, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.
Erdogan told reporters that after the intelligence officer had heard the recording, he said: “I guess they were on heroin; only someone who is on heroin would do such a thing.”
The comments, reported by the pro-government Turkish newspaper The Daily Sabah on Tuesday, came after The New York Times reported that people familiar with the audio recording say it contains an instruction to “tell your boss.” American intelligence officials believe is a reference to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince.
The report suggests that one of the 15-strong “kill team” allegedly sent to Istanbul to assassinate Khashoggi can be heard on the tape making a phone call in Arabic to say “the deed was done,” or words to that effect.
The same person also told the person on the other end of the line to “tell your boss,” a reference intelligence officials believe is the strongest evidence yet linking de facto Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Khashoggi’s murder, according to the Times.
Riyadh has maintained that neither bin Salman nor his father, King Salman, knew of the operation to target Khashoggi, an American resident.
The crown prince is not specifically mentioned by name during the audio recording, according to the Times.
Citing three unnamed people familiar with the recording, the Times report says the call was made by Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, one of the Saudi team allegedly sent to kill the Washington Post columnist.
The assertion is backed up by Turkish intelligence officials, who told their American counterparts that Mutreb was speaking to one of Prince Mohammed’s aides, the Times reports.
CNN has not heard the recording and is unable to verify the voices on the tape or what they’re purported to say.
Turkey has claimed for weeks to have audio evidence that exposes how the Saudi journalist was killed on October 2, while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain papers for his upcoming marriage.
The Turkish chief prosecutor has previously said that Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the consulate as part of a premeditated plan, and his body dismembered.
The Saudis have presented shifting stories about the journalist’s death, initially denying any knowledge before arguing that a group of rogue operators were responsible for his death.
US officials have speculated that such a mission – including the 15 men sent from Riyadh – could not have been carried out without the authorization of bin Salman, heir apparent to the Saudi throne.
After Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed in its Istanbul consulate, five high-ranking officials were dismissed, including bin Salman’s media chief and the deputy head of the Saudi intelligence service.
Tapes disseminated to friendly countries
The details of the tape have emerged as Ankara confirmed that the intelligence had been shared with allies.
Turkey’s Erdogan said Saturday that his country had shared the recordings with Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, although confusion has swirled over which countries have and haven’t listened to the recordings. Turkish officials have said little about what they might contain.
On Monday, speaking from Paris, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that his country’s intelligence services had listened to the audio, although he says that he personally had not heard the tapes.
“We continue to be engaged with our allies on the investigation into accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and we are in discussions with our like-minded allies as to next steps towards Saudi Arabia,” he said in response to a reporter’s question.
Hunt: Justice will soon be served
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the first high-ranking British official to travel to Riyadh since the diplomatic crisis over Khashoggi’s death emerged, told reporters from the Saudi capital Monday that he thinks those responsible for the killing will soon be brought to justice.
“I talked very frankly about our concerns about what happened and how important it is for Saudi’s strategic partners to know that this cannot and will not happen again,” he told reporters.
“The first step in that process – not the only step but the first step in that process is to make sure there is proper accountability for the people who were responsible, both the people who committed the act but also the people who gave the orders for the act. Due process is in train at the moment in Saudi Arabia and I was led to believe there will be rapid progress in making sure that people are brought to justice.”
On Sunday, his US counterpart, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told bin Salman that the US will hold all those involved in the killing of Khashoggi accountable, and “that Saudi Arabia must do the same,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
CNN’s Angela Dewan and Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.