A Turkish prosecutor has demanded that arrest warrants be issued against two Saudi nationals close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Turkish source close to the investigation said Wednesday.
Khashoggi, 59, was killed shortly after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain paperwork for his upcoming marriage.
The chief prosecutor's office in Istanbul filed an application Tuesday to obtain the warrants for Ahmad al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, described in court documents as being "among the planners" of the murder of the Washington Post contributor Khashoggi.
Assiri often sat in during Prince Mohammed's closed-door meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries and Qahtani was a key counsellor to the crown prince. Both were sacked after Riyadh admitted Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate.
According to Turkey, a 15-member Saudi team was sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi.
The Istanbul prosecutor in charge of the investigation said in late October that the Saudi former insider turned critic was strangled then his body was cut into pieces. The remains of Khashoggi's body have not been found. There has been speculation in pro-government media that his body was dissolved in acid.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government, but has insisted it was not King Salman.
Riyadh has since detained 21 people over the murder. Despite speculation that the powerful crown prince ordered the hit, the kingdom has strongly denied he was involved.
But two key US Republican senators said a Tuesday briefing by the CIA's director only strengthened their conviction that Prince Mohammed directed the murder.
Rejecting President Donald Trump’s efforts to play down the prince’s role, Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee said that if a jury were to consider a case against Prince Mohammed, he’d be convicted of murder in 30 minutes.
“There is zero question in my mind that the crown prince directed the murder and was kept apprised of the situation all the way through,” Corker said after the closed-door briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel and a handful of senators. “Zero question in my mind.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who has often been a Trump ally, said the only conclusion was that Prince Mohammed, known as MBS, is responsible for the killing.
"There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw,” Graham said, in an apparent reference to reports that the columnist was beheaded, dismembered and his fingers were severed.
“You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion and that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi,” Graham said.
Graham said he won’t support arms sales to Saudi Arabia while Prince Mohammed is in power.
AFP and Bloomberg contributed to this story.