BEIRUT, Lebanon — After the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was strangled in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a member of the team that had flown in to confront him put on his clothes and left the building to create a misleading trail of evidence, surveillance images released by Turkey on Monday showed.
The ruse — acknowledged by a Saudi official and another Saudi briefed on the investigation into Mr. Khashoggi’s killing — added to the numerous doubts about the kingdom’s explanation of how the 59-year-old Saudi writer died.
The use of a “body double” suggests a premeditated plan to make Mr. Khashoggi disappear, through death or abduction, and to cover it up — possibly contradicting the Saudi insistence that his death was the accidental result of an altercation.
In a narrative that has been met with wide skepticism by Turkish and American officials, Saudi Arabia has said that the 15-man team sent to Istanbul sought to persuade Mr. Khashoggi to return home but that he resisted. That, the Saudis said, prompted a fistfight in which one of the men put Mr. Khashoggi in a chokehold and accidentally killed him.
Saudi officials have insisted that the kingdom’s rulers, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, did not know about the operation ahead of time and that the team was not dispatched from Riyadh with orders to kill Mr. Khashoggi.
But in that story, it is unclear what role there would have been for a large, middle-aged man with gray hair who resembled Mr. Khashoggi. Other members of the team were younger and had clear ties to the Saudi military and security services.
|A still from security footage showing Jamal Khashoggi, highlighted in a red circle by the source, arriving at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.CreditTRT World, via Reuters|
Until this past Saturday, the Saudis had insisted that Mr. Khashoggi left the consulate — a false narrative that would have been substantiated by someone who resembled him seen departing the building.
Turkish officials have asserted for weeks that they have proof that Saudi officials set out to kill Mr. Khashoggi and have orchestrated a steady stream of leaks to the news media to maintain pressure on the Saudis and undermine their denials. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that he would soon reveal everything Turkey knows about the case.
A Turkish newspaper, Haberturk, reported Saturday that someone who looked like Mr. Khashoggi left the Saudi Consulate on Oct. 2, the day the dissident was killed inside the building. On Monday, CNN showed images, leaked by the Turkish authorities, that show that man strolling around Istanbul, apparently wearing Mr. Khashoggi’s clothes.
“They panicked after he died, and in order to make it appear he left the consulate, they decided to impersonate him,” said the Saudi official who was briefed on the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
The official also said that the body had been rolled in a rug and given to a local collaborator to dispose of. Turkish officials have said that Mr. Khashoggi’s body was dismembered before being removed from the consulate.
After weeks of insisting that Mr. Khashoggi, who lived in the United States and wrote columns for The Washington Post, had left the consulate alive and well, the Saudi government acknowledged on Saturday that he had been killed there, and said that 18 people faced discipline for the incident.
The case has caused an international uproar, driving a wedge between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and chilling the Saudis’ relations with Western countries, including the United States.
Britain, France and Germany said in a joint statement on Sunday that they would ultimately make their judgments about what happened based on the “credibility of the further explanation we receive,” and made clear that they wanted assurances that such “a shameful event” would not happen again. Saudi Arabia needs to do more to determine the truth and hold those responsible accountable, the countries said.
Germany has suspended arms sales to the kingdom, but it is not a major source of Saudi arms. The United States and Britain rank first and second, with France a distant third, according to the Stockholm Institute on International Peace, which tracks arms sales.
Also weighing in was the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who described the information that has become public so far as a “shocking violation” of international conventions that outline norms of consular behavior.
On Sunday, the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, gave the first public, high-level acknowledgment that there had been a cover-up, but he and other officials continue to say that the death was an accident, and that it was not ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s day-to-day ruler. Western intelligence officials have said that he most likely ordered the operation, and that several members of the team that flew to Istanbul have ties to the crown prince, who is often referred to by his initials, MBS.
Martin Dempsey, a former chairman of the United States’ Joint Chiefs of Staff who has lived in Saudi Arabia, wrote Monday on Twitter, “absolutely no way that MBS was unaware of Khashoggi murder.”
On Monday, the Turkish public broadcasting channel TRT reported that a car found abandoned in a parking lot in Istanbul matched the description and license plates of a vehicle that belonged to the Saudi Consulate and was seen outside the building on the day Mr. Khashoggi disappeared.
Mr. Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, has been placed under police protection, a Turkish official said on Monday. The official said the measure had been taken not because of any specific threat, but because Ms. Cengiz, who was to marry Mr. Khashoggi the day after he went to the Saudi Consulate, had been the target of online abuse.