Trump: Saudi prince could be behind Khashoggi murder
President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday condemned the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, describing the case as a “big test” for the entire Western states and the advocates of human rights.
“Undoubtedly, the positions which the US, Europe and other countries adopt on the issue will reveal the degree of their sensitivity to [protecting] human rights and to preserving human dignity,” Rouhani told a cabinet meeting.
He said Khashoggi's "heinous murder" would have been unthinkable "without US backing".
"I don't think that any country would dare do such a thing without US backing," Rouhani said, adding that before Khashoggi's murder "it would have been unthinkable that in this day and age we would witness such an organized felony.
It is extremely significant that an institution planned such a heinous murder.
"The tribal group that is ruling that nation (Saudi Arabia) has a security margin. That security margin is that it relies on US backing. It is this superpower that is backing them."
Rouhani also called on Turkey's government to conduct an impartial investigation into "unprecedented" murder case.
Khashoggi, a government critic who was living in self-imposed exile in the United States, was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 as he organized the paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée.
Saudi prince responsible
The case has triggered an international outcry against Saudi Arabia.
US President Donald Trump, in his strongest remarks so far, said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bears ultimate responsibility as de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia for the operation that led to the death of Khashoggi, indicating that the prince is "running things over there" in Riyadh.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Trump said he wanted to believe the prince's claim that lower level officials were to blame for the Oct. 2 killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but suggested responsibility lay higher up.
Asked about Prince Mohammed’s possible involvement, Trump said: "Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He's running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him."
Trump said he was convinced King Salman had no advance knowledge of the incident.
Earlier on Tuesday, the US president told reporters at the White House that Saudi authorities had staged the "worst cover-up ever" over the incident, and that they had handled the matter badly.
‘Blood on his hands’
An adviser to Turkey's leader said on Wednesday the Saudi crown prince had "blood on his hands" over Khashoggi's killing, the bluntest comments yet from someone linked to Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Riyadh's de facto ruler in connection with the death.
Riyadh has blamed a "rogue operation" for the death of the prominent journalist. After weeks of denying any knowledge of his whereabouts, Saudi Arabia said Khashoggi was killed in a fistfight in the consulate.
"It is a disgrace that reaches all the way to Crown Prince Salman. At least five members of the execution team are Salman's right hands and are people that wouldn't act without his knowledge," Ilnur Cevik, an adviser to President Erdogan, wrote in a column in the Yeni Birlik newspaper.
"Even if US President Trump saves Salman, in the eyes of the world he is a questionable person with Khashoggi's blood on his hands," Cevik wrote.
Erdogan insisted on Wednesday his country would not allow those responsible for Khashoggi’s killing to avoid justice.
“We are determined not to allow a cover-up of this murder and to make sure all those responsible - from those who ordered it to those who carried it out - will not be allowed to avoid justice,” Erdogan said.
He said some people were uncomfortable with him sharing evidence in a speech on Tuesday about the killing. But he added: “We will continue to share new evidence transparently with our counterparts to enlighten the dark sides of this murder.”
On Tuesday Erdogan urged Riyadh to search “from top to bottom” to uncover those behind the "savage murder" of the veteran journalist.
Evidence shared with CIA
Pro-government media reported on Wednesday Turkish intelligence has shared "all the evidence" over Khashoggi’s murder with the CIA chief during a visit.
CIA Director Gina Haspel visited the Turkish capital Ankara on Tuesday for talks with officials about the case.
Video images and audio tapes as well as evidence gathered from the consulate and the consul's residence were shared with Haspel during the briefing at the Turkish Intelligence Organization (MIT), Sabah newspaper reported.
State media also reported Wednesday that Saudi authorities denied permission to Turkish police to search a well in the garden of the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul as part of a probe into the murder of Khashoggi.
Turkish police this month searched the consulate twice, and the residence of the Saudi consul general, to gather evidence.
Basing its report on the security sources, the Anadolu news agency reported that Turkish police "were denied authorization by Saudi officials to search the well in the consulate garden".
Turkey is conducting its own investigation into the killing but it remains unclear where the body of Khashoggi is.
Turkish police were also hunting for the remains in an Istanbul forest.
On Tuesday, the police searched an abandoned car belonging to the Saudi consulate in an underground car park in the Sultangazi district of Istanbul.
Press TV, AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.