- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 11, 2018

The last words Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi uttered before his death inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month were “I’m suffocating,” according to a senior Turkish journalist with knowledge of an unpublished recording of the incident.

In an interview with Al Jazeera published Sunday, Nazif Karaman, the head of investigations at Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah, said Mr. Khashoggi was suffocated with a plastic bag and that his death took about seven minutes.

Mr. Karaman also recalled Mr. Khashoggi’s final words: “I’m suffocating. Take this bag off my head. I’m claustrophobic.”

Turkish government recordings of the episode on Oct. 2 have been the source of intense speculation ever since rumors of recordings surfaced last month, including that CIA Director Gina Haspel listened to the material while visiting Turkey last month.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this weekend made the first public acknowledgment that recordings exist and announced that officials from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Germany, France and Britain have listened to the recordings.

“We gave [the recordings] to Saudi Arabia, to America, to the Germans, the French, to the British, to all of them,” Mr. Erdogan said Saturday before attending ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. “They listened to the conversations which took place here. They know.”

But none of the countries Turkey’s leader mentioned has acknowledged receiving recordings. Officials from the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office neither confirmed nor denied that it had obtained copies.

The slaying of Mr. Khashoggi, an American resident, journalist and critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has strained Riyadh’s diplomatic credibility around the world.

Although Turkey has not publicly blamed Saudi Arabia for the killing, officials there have said Mr. Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered at the consulate in Istanbul after arriving to obtain papers to marry his Turkish fiancee. They contend the killing was premeditated and executed by a 15-member hit squad dispatched to Istanbul.

Turkish officials are seeking the extradition of 18 people who have been detained in Saudi Arabia so they can be put on trial in Turkey.

For weeks after Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, Saudi officials insisted that the dissident walked out of the consulate, before changing their account to say he died in a brawl. They later characterized the killing as having been carried out by rogue Saudi agents.

But last month, in an apparent shift to ease international outrage, they acknowledged Turkish evidence indicated that the killing was premeditated.

President Trump has said he believes the Saudis tried to cover up Mr. Khashoggi’s killing, but he has reserved judgment on who is to blame until Riyadh provides an official account of the incident, which is expected soon.

Over the weekend, the Trump administration appeared to concede to calls from Capitol Hill to punish Saudi Arabia in some way, taking the modest step of suspending air-refueling flights for Riyadh’s military campaign in Yemen.

Meanwhile, Turkish police are ending the search for Mr. Khashoggi’s body. Turkish media reported Sunday that the journalist’s remains could have been chemically dissolved.

But the criminal investigation is moving forward.

Mr. Karaman said that Daily Sabah soon would publish photos of the tools the hit team used in addition to portions of the recordings that document Mr. Khashoggi’s final words.

• Dan Boylan can be reached at dboylan@washingtontimes.com.

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