CIA director Gina Haspel on a visit to Turkey earlier this week listened to an audio recording purportedly of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate General in İstanbul, according to a report by Reuters on Thursday.
Two sources confirmed to Reuters that Haspel had access to the audio recording, which is believed to be an essential piece of evidence showing that Khashoggi was tortured and killed inside the consulate on Oct. 2 by a 15-man team sent from the kingdom.
The Washington Post also reported that Haspel had heard the audio during her visit. A person familiar with the audio told The Post it was compelling and could put more pressure on the United States to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the death of Khashoggi.
The US government has been criticized for its reluctance to pressure Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s murder because of President Donald Trump’s warm relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, lived in self-imposed exile in the United States from 2017 and was a critic of Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Trump administration on Tuesday revoked visas for the agents implicated in the killing, which The Washington Post said ”a modest move” given that 18 of the 21 suspects are already under arrest in Saudi Arabia.
“These penalties will not be the last word on this matter from the United States,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday. “We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those responsible accountable.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had been expected to share the recordings on Tuesday in his address to parliament after he vowed on Sunday to reveal detailed information on Khashoggi’s demise and what the Turkish officials say is the Saudi cover-up.
But Erdoğan on Tuesday summarised the already leaked information on Khashoggi’s death without making any reference to audio recordings and warned Saudi Arabia that the investigation would not be closed by laying the blame on a few security and intelligence officials.