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Pompeo meets Turkish leaders as account of ‘Saudi writer’s murder’ published

A Turkish newspaper cited what it described as an audio recording of Jamal Khashoggi’s death.

A Turkish newspaper has published an account of the alleged murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, as America’s top diplomat arrived for talks over the Washington Post columnist’s disappearance.

The report by Yeni Safak adds to increasing pressure on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Mr Khashoggi, who vanished on October 2 while visiting the consulate to pick up paperwork he needed to get married.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo held separate meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for around 40 minutes each on Wednesday in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

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Mevlut Cavusoglu with Mike Pompeo (Cem Ozdel/Turkish Foreign Ministry/AP)

Mr Pompeo met Saudi King Salman and his son, the 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Tuesday. Before leaving Riyadh, he told reporters the Saudi leaders “made no exceptions on who they would hold accountable”.

“They made a commitment to hold anyone connected to any wrongdoing that may be found accountable for that, whether they are a senior officer or official,” Mr Pompeo said.

No major decisions are made outside the ultra-conservative kingdom’s ruling Al Saud family.

Mr Khashoggi had fled the country last year amid the rise of Prince Mohammed, whom he wrote critically about in the Post.

The Yeni Safak report cited what it described as an audio recording of Mr Khashoggi’s death, which it said showed the writer was tortured.

The newspaper said Saudi consul general Mohammed al-Otaibi could be heard on the tape, telling those allegedly torturing Mr Khashoggi: “Do this outside, you’re going to get me in trouble.”

The newspaper said one of the Saudis torturing Mr Khashoggi replied: “Shut up if you want to live when you return to (Saudi) Arabia.”

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CCTV video of a man believed to be Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul (CCTV/Hurriyet/AP)

Saudi officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment from the Associated Press. Mr al-Otaibi left Turkey on Tuesday afternoon, Turkish state media reported.

Security services in Turkey have used pro-government media to leak details of Mr Khashoggi’s case, adding to pressure on the kingdom.

US President Donald Trump, who earlier warned of “severe punishment” if the kingdom was found culpable, criticised the allegations against Saudi Arabia and compared them to the accusations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh during his Supremne Court confirmation hearing.

“Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Mr Trump told the AP in an interview.

That attitude does not appear to be shared with Congress, as one prominent Republican senator said he believed that the crown prince, widely known as MBS, had Mr Khashoggi “murdered”.

“This guy has got to go,” said senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina. “Saudi Arabia, if you’re listening, there are a lot of good people you can choose, but MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself.”

On Tuesday, a high-level Turkish official told the AP that police found “certain evidence” of Mr Khashoggi’s murder at the consulate.

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Police arrive at the Saudi consul’s residence in Istanbul (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

Later on Wednesday, police arrived at the residence of the Saudi consul in Istanbul to conduct a search. They had wanted to search on Tuesday night but did not have permission from Saudi Arabia.

Leaked surveillance video shows that diplomatic cars travelled to the consul general’s home shortly after Mr Khashoggi went into the consulate.

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