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Canada

Saudi Arabia in hot waters as international leaders condemn, express skepticism around Khashoggi murder

Canada, U.K., France and Germany remain skeptic of Saudi Arabia’s response to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, with some demanding evidence from Saudi Arabia to back its claim that Jamal Khashoggi died in a fight at its consulate.

Riyadh’s explanation that the dissident journalist was killed when an argument spiralled out of control “needs to be backed by facts”, a joint statement issued by U.K., France and Germany said, amid increasing scepticism about the Saudi version of events.

Meanwhile Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, said in a statement Saturday night that the Saudis’ “explanations” of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi “lack consistency and credibility.”

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister last night appeared on American television to admit that officials still did not know exactly how the 59-year-old died or where his body was. The kingdom said late on Friday night that Mr Khashoggi died in a “fist-fight” that broke out when he was detained in Istanbul.

The kingdom also said that five top Saudi intelligence officials had been fired and 18 others arrested as a result of its investigation into the matter.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, said last night that Ankara would release “the naked truth” in the form of a full report tomorrow.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, waves following his speech at an opening ceremony for a new metro station in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Erdogan says he will announce details of the Turkish investigation into the death of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi’s on Tuesday. Presidential Press Service / ASSOCIATED PRESS

In the joint statement Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, Jean-Yves Le Drian, his French counterpart, and Heiko Maas, of Germany, condemned the killing. “Yet there remains an urgent need for clarification of exactly what happened on October 2 — beyond the hypotheses that have been raised so far in the Saudi investigation, which need to be backed by facts to be considered credible,” it said.

They demanded accountability and due process for any crimes committed. “We will ultimately make our judgment based on the credibility of the further explanation we receive about what happened and our confidence that such a shameful event cannot and will not ever be repeated,” they said.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said she backed a freeze on arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

In her statement, Freeland expressed sincere condolences to Khashoggi’s family and loved ones.“The pain they are enduring as a result of this tragedy is heartbreaking,” she said, adding “Those responsible for the killing must be held to account and must face justice.”

The human rights group Amnesty International said Saudi Arabia should “immediately produce” Khashoggi’s body so that independent forensic experts can conduct an autopsy in line with international standards.

Saudi’s admission late on Friday night was the third version of the events released by the kingdom. Accounts started with claims that Mr Khashoggi walked out of the consulate, before moving on to blaming “rogue killers” and finally settling on the supposed fight that erupted during what officials said were “discussions”.

In this file photo taken on March 20, 2018 Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) speaks during a meeting with US President Donald Trump (R) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. – US President Donald Trump has accused Saudi Arabia of lying about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, his strongest comments to date on the affair as pressure builds on the administration to strike a tougher line. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

In an interview on Fox News, Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, offered his condolences to Mr Khashoggi’s family and said the death was a “mistake”. Saudi critics believe that the official explanation may be designed to shield Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince, from blame and have stepped up calls for his removal.

His words illustrate a dilemma for the United States, which sees Riyadh as a customer for billions of dollars of arms and an ally in efforts to contain Iran.

With files from Canadian Press.

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