Murdered Saudi journalist’s fiancee speaks out
JAMAL Khashoggi's fiancee has revealed she declined an invitation to the White House to meet Donald Trump.
Hatice Cengiz, who was to be married to the slain Saudi Arabian journalist, told Turkish television network Haberturk she did not believe the US President's motives were sincere when he invited her to meet him in Washington.
"I perceived it as a statement to win the sympathy of the public. That's how I understood it," she said.
A brief published shortly after the Friday interview - her first interview since Khashoggi died - clarified she believed the invite was aimed at influencing public opinion in the US.
"(Cengiz) did not accept US President Donald Trump's invitation to visit the White House because she thought it was aimed at influencing public opinion in his favour," the brief said.
"In an interview with Haberturk TV, Hatice Cengiz said she would not go to the White House until the United States was sincere in its efforts to solve Khashoggi's killing, demanding that all those responsible be tried and punished."
In a New York Times piece published earlier this week, Ms Cengiz said she would speak with the President only "if he makes a genuine contribution to the efforts to reveal what happened inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul that day".
In the heartbreaking Haberturk interview, Ms Cengiz spoke about the emotional strain of her husband's disappearance.
"I found myself in a darkness I cannot express," Ms Cengiz said of the pain she has felt since October 2, when Khashoggi disappeared.
She also revealed that the pair never though their safety might be compromised in Turkey.
"His local network in Turkey was very good as you know, his political network as well," Ms Cengiz told the network.
"He thought Turkey is a safe country and if he would be held or interrogated, this issue would be swiftly solved."
Ms Cengiz now fears for her life too. She noted she cannot go to Saudi Arabia, even though Khashoggi stated in his will that he wanted to be buried in the Saudi city of Medina.
"I still have questions that I cannot answer," said Ms Cengiz, who shed tears at times in the interview. "Did I miss something? Did I not notice something?"
She also said she has not received a condolence call from Saudi officials since the death of the journalist, who left the Middle Eastern kingdom a year ago.
Nonetheless, Ms Cengiz is determined that justice be served. "I demand that all those involved in this savagery from the highest to the lowest levels are punished and brought to justice," she said.
Mr Trump has vowed "severe punishment" if the Saudi government is proven guilty in the murder. He also said Saudi authorities had staged the "worst cover-up ever" over the case.
Earlier in the week, Ms Cengiz tweeted a touching video tribute to her husband, saying "they took your bodily presence from my world. But your beautiful alugh will remain in my soul forever".
PRESSURE RAMPS UP ON SAUDIS
Khashoggi's shocking murder has now spiralled into a crisis for Saudi Arabia and its powerful young ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Khashoggi had been an outspoken critic of the crown prince.
International pressure has increased on the Saudi leadership to come clean on the case, after Riyadh shifted its official explanation a number of times.
In its latest version, the Saudi public prosecutor said the killing was premeditated, reversing an earlier statement that Khashoggi was killed accidentally in a fight at the consulate.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged Saudi Arabia on Friday to disclose who ordered Khashoggi's murder, as well as the location of his body, heightening international pressure on the kingdom to come clean on the case.
Turkey also intensified its demands for Saudi Arabia to extradite the 18 suspects in the killing, a call that is likely to be met with resistance from the kingdom and could escalate tensions between the US-allied regional powers.
The Istanbul chief prosecutor's office submitted a request for Saudi Arabia to hand over the suspects in the killing, and Turkey's Foreign Ministry will formally notify the kingdom, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The Saudi government has said it arrested and would itself punish 18 people for what it described as a "rogue" operation by officials who killed Khashoggi in the consulate.
"We expect our request (for the suspects') return to be fulfilled because this atrocious event took place in Turkey," said Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul.
Saudi Arabia has returned suspects to Turkey before but the stakes are much higher in the Khashoggi case as some of those implicated are close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose condemnation of the killing failed to ease suspicions that he was involved.
A senior Turkish official Turkey also said Turkey's judicial system is better equipped to serve the cause of justice in this case.
"The court proceedings in Turkey will be open to international observers in order to ensure the greatest level of transparency," the official said.
Khashoggi's son has now left Saudi Arabia after the kingdom revoked a travel ban and allowed him to come to the United States.
State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said Washington welcomed the decision.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the case of Khashoggi's son, Salah Khashoggi, during his recent visit to the kingdom, where he made it "clear to Saudi leaders" that Washington wanted the son to return to the United States.
- with wires