Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, and he never left the building. The world is still curious about the crucial details. Abdurrahman Simsek, Nazif Karaman and Ferhat Unlu, investigative journalists, has now published all details of this murder into a book. Diplomatic Violence: Dark Secrets of the Jamal Khashoggi Murder is among the bestselling book list in Turkey. You find all the details of the Jamal Khashoggi incident in the book, including the tape recordings and documents. Moreover, the book is not only about Khashoggi murder, there are also many unknown details. Ferhat Unlu, author of the book, has spoken to Forum USA.
Interview: Pınar Işık Ardor
You have dealt with an unsolved case. How did Diplomatic Violence come into existence? Do you have any conspiracy theories in the book?
“WE WORKED 18 HOURS A DAY AND FINISHED THE BOOK IN 20 DAYS”
We wrote the book in 20 days. I wrote 18 hours a day. We benefited from sources in English. Two young fellows from Koç University worked so hard on tracking sources in English. I also checked them later for sure. We have viewed 3000-page open source documents in total.
How did you get intelligence reports that fast?
“WE RECEIVED APPROVAL FROM TOP-LEVEL SOURCES”
Frankly, reliable sources in government reached a consensus on the fact that our team could write this book. We already have mutual trust which is based on our past. Therefore we tried hard, but we acted with approval we received from top-level sources.
Are there not any conspiracy theories in the book?
“WE DO NOT THINK THE CIA MASTERMINDED THIS INCIDENT”
Especially, we made a point of not including a conspiracy. This is not a profiteering book. Yes, there are a lot of parts of the incident that open doors for conspiracy. Why did a 15-person squad come and leave a mark as if they had left their business cards? There were a lot of questions. I narrated, with past examples, that Saudi operation style parallels with MOSSAD’s aggressive operation style. But we could not find anything suggesting that this incident was masterminded by the CIA. If we had found any evidence, we would have written about that, too.
Well, what about other countries’ intelligence services?
“IT IS SIGNIFICANT THAT THE CROWN PRINCE USES AN ISRAELI MADE PROGRAM”
Only a hacking software could be linked with the Israeli intelligence... This software was made by NSO, an Israeli software company. We know the Saudi crown prince tracks people via this spyware which is called Pegasus.
WhatsApp talks between 27-year-old Omar Abdulaziz and Jamal Khashoggi were revealed. We made an interview with Omar Abdulaziz. Khashoggi criticized Mohammed Bin Salman severely on WhatsApp. And Mohammed Bin Salman was annoyed.
Have Saudis always been brutal like this?
“I HAVE BEEN FAMILIAR WITH THESE IN THE LAST 25 YEARS, BUT I HAVE NEVER SEEN SUCH THING.”
They have always been brutal like this, but there violence to such degree has never been seen. They take people telling they are taking them to Riyadh. The consequence is certain. They all are written in the book. When they tell one to come to Riyadh, one can know that a decision about him/her has already been given. Khashoggi knew about this, and that was why he did not accept their call. They told him to come; he did not go. Most of them do not go, but they are taken by force. Saudis have always done that until today, but the world has never reacted. It is very clear that their operation ways do not fit into the conventional secret service methods. I have been investigating on intelligence for 25 years, but I have neither heard nor read such thing. But carrying out such a brutality by leaving marks in the consulate building, by sending a 15-person assassination squad is really a first time act.
Is this a clumsiness or professionalism? What kind of message do you think they wanted to give?
“IF THAT PLAN HAD WORKED, EVERYBODY WOULD HAVE TALKED ABOUT TURKEY INSTEAD OF SAUDI ARABIA.”
In Turkey, there are a lot of people who are critical of Mohammed Bin Salman’s regime. We have reached a conclusion that these opposition members were anonymously going to be given a strong message by Mohammed Bin Salman. That is also what our sources tell. If body double scenario had worked, a basis to blame Turkey could be formed.
So, if the body double plan had worked, Turkey would have happened to lose Jamal Khashoggi , and his end would have been remained mystery.
Yes, on one hand, Khashoggi would have only been lost, and Turkey would have been talked about instead of Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, Saudi opposition members would have always known that this man had gone in the consulate building and had never got out. I mean, it would have remained anonymous.
Why was Jamal Khashoggi murdered? It is told that he had important information. Or is it just because he was a critic of the crown prince?
“HIS ADMIRATION FOR TURKEY AND HIS CRITICISM OF MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN SOUNDED HIS DEATH KNELL”
Khashoggi was an important opposition member. He was not just an opposition member in fact. He had significant influence on west. He writed in Washington Post. The problem is the fact that Mohammed Bin Salmanis a baseless leader candidate in his country. To me he is not a leader. He is worried so much about an anti-propaganda in the US, since he has exterior support. The fact that Khashoggi writed in Washington Post is a problem of itself. Why is a troll army built? I call them Goebbels, because they have Saudi El-Kahtani who works as Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, did. He played an active role in this murder.
You have just said that crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman is scared of the US in case of an anti-propaganda. I can not understand how he seems to be more powerful than ever, since he is still being invited to meetings, while it is obvious he is instigator of this murder, while he is expected to be dismissed. How could this happen?
“THE REAL CHAOS WILL OCCUR AFTER THE KING DIES”
Yes, this incident is not enough to take him down. Nietzsche has a famous saying “What does not kill you makes you stronger”. But I do not think it has made him stronger. You are right to ask this question, but he went to G20 summit in Argentina with a huge army of bodyguards. He did not get out of hotel for the fear that he might be arrested. He may not be gone for now, but I think the real chaos will occur after King Salman bin Abdulaziz dies.
What was assignment of 15 people who came to Turkey? Khashoggi went in, then what happened? How were tape recordings acquired? By whom and how these tape recordings were listened to? Is it true that those who listened to the tape recordings cried? Is it also true that they listened to music while dismembering him?
“FINALLY, WE DISMEMBERED HIM, PUT THE PIECES INTO SUITCASES AND GET THEM OUT OF HERE, HE SAYS”
We did not mention any information that could not be verified, since we did not want to allow for speculation. We did not write about how tape recordings were acquired, since we could not verify it. We just reached the recordings. We neither listened to nor saw them. We received this information from those who listened to them. The recordings are between page 75 and page 78 in the book. One of them says “I normally put headphones, listen to music, have a coffee and smoke while working.”
Did he say this, while Khashoggi’s body was chopped up?
He did say before that. I mean, he did not listen to music while he was dismembering Khashoggi. He said, in a brutal way “Jamal is tall, around 1,80 meters. It takes some time, but I can do it.” He also said “At last, we dismembered him, put his pieces into suitcases and get them out of here.” There are a lot of details in the book. These parts are very dramatic. For instance, blood was drawn from his veins so that it would not scatter while they were dismembering his body.
Did Jamal Khashoggi see these tools before he was murdered?
He saw forensic science tools. That is what we understood from the tape recordings and also that’s what we were told.
Did he sound panicked at that moment?
“THE TRANSLATOR OF THE BRITISH SECRET SERVICE AND THAT OF THE CIA WERE TOUCHED”
He told “stop, I have asthma, you will choke me” at last. There is nothing apart from that. He already knew that a decision was made. He is a very brave man in fact. Only British secret service listened to the sound recordings in here. All the other secret services listened to the recordings at the headquarters in Yenimahalle, Ankara. The translator of British secret service cried. That of the CIA were also touched. These translators are not ordinary translators, but those who are used to these kinds of incidents.
“THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN MUCH MORE MURDERS, IF KHASHOGGI’S MURDER HAD NOT BEEN UNCOVERED”
They are called Tiger Squad. Mohammed Bin Salman had Qahtani formed this squad. It is told that the squad consisted of 50 people, but I think it is more than 50. It is a squad that carries out assassination operations of the Mohammed Bin Salman faction. A 15-person squad that came for Khashoggi was also part of the Tiger Squad. However, Tiger Squad has another role, and that is to follow the Saudi opposition members. So, it does not operate as an assassination squad, but as a surveillance squad.
We know Khashoggi was strangled, dismembered and then was put into suitcases, yet the suitcases disappeared. Were they dissolved? Were they thrown into a water well? Moreover, some claim that Jamal Khashoggi is not dead.
It is very obvious that Khashoggi was murdered. Conversations reveal the assassination plot. His groaning for 7,5 minutes, his being strangled and even sound of the autopsy saw were recorded.
“KHASHOGGI’S BODY IS MOST LIKELY TO BE IN THE WATER WELL”
They plotted in advance. It is heard that they say “put them into suitcases and then get them out of here.” Suitcases went into the residential building, but they did not go out just like Mr. Khashoggi. His dead body is more likely to be in the water well now. They did not give permission for a search at the water well. There has not been any progress since Turkey’s appeal on October 19. A sample was taken from the water well, but that gave no result. Well, his pieces might have been put into bags. Therefore there may not be any DNA findings in there, yet that does not mean the body is not in there. They could have made a search by drawing all the water in the well, but they did not allow.
The book is very popular in Turkey. Will it be translated into English and Arabic?
“A CONTRACT FOR THE TRANSLATION INTO ARABIC WAS SIGNED. CURRENTLY IT IS BEING TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH”
A contract for the translation into Arabic was signed. You are the first person to hear this. We have signed a contract with a publisher in Qatar. It will be available in other Arab countries. But, it is unlikely for the book to reach Saudi Arabia and UAE for sure. Also the book is currently being translated into English.