Turkey could make Khashoggi tapes public - Defence Minister

Turkey has tapes of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi but did not obtain them by bugging the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was killed, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has told BBC Türkçe in an exclusive interview.

“There was no surveillance within the consulate. We will not reveal the source of the recordings,” said Akar.

The murder of Khashoggi, a dissident journalist and one of the most vocal opponents of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has provoked international outrage and piled pressure on the crown prince, who is thought by many, including U.S. intelligence, to have ordered the killing.

Turkey’s gradual release of information since Khashoggi’s murder on October 2 has kept the issue on the global agenda. However, Turkey has not at its highest levels directly blamed Prince Mohammed for the killing, and Akar refused to be drawn out on whether he held the crown prince responsible.

Rather, the defence minister repeated Turkey’s demands that the 18 people arrested in Saudi Arabia for the killing are sent to Turkey to be tried, and said Turkey had sound recordings and other evidence to be used in their trials.

Akar added that while the recordings would not presently be revealed to the public, that was not out of the question according to the situation.

Asked about Turkey’s sincerity in seeking justice for a Saudi journalist while over 100 Turkish journalists remain imprisoned in their own country, Akar reiterated the Turkish government’s line that those behind bars are there for committing crimes, not journalism.

It is a line that many international observers reject, with the Committee to Protect Journalists explicitly stating that all the journalists it counted in a report naming Turkey as the world’s leading jailer of journalists had been imprisoned on charges related to their work. The human rights organisation Freedom House, meanwhile, downgraded Turkey to a status of “Not Free” in its most recent report, thanks in large part to the media crackdown.

Nevertheless, Akar said there was no comparison between the Khashoggi case and any of the jailed journalists, none of whom, he said, had been arrested for journalistic activities.

“They may be called journalists, but they aren’t journalists,” Akar said.