Turkey passed up Canada’s offer of help with Khashoggi investigation, documents show | CBC News

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Turkey passed up Canada’s offer of help with Khashoggi investigation, documents show | CBC News

Canada offered to help Turkey investigate the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, but the Turks never took up the proposal. 

Documents from Global Affairs Canada obtained by CBC News under Access to Information law show that in October 2018, then-foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland told her Turkish counterpart Canada would be happy to send investigators to help probe the death of the prominent Saudi journalist and dissident.

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and well-known critic of the government of Saudi Arabia, was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul early in October 2018 when he tried to pick up a marriage document for him and his Turkish fiancé.

Investigations have pinned responsibility for his death on Saudi Arabia. His dismembered remains have never been found.

A Global Affairs employee, who asked not to be identified, told CBC News that Turkish officials let the offer hang and never asked for Canada’s help — despite repeated calls from its president for broad international co-operation in the investigation of Khashoggi’s death.

“Turkey simply never asked us,” the Canadian official said.

The U.S. has featured more prominently in Turkey’s efforts; President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally urged the Americans to get more involved in the probe. Turkey also sent Washington and other national governments an audio recording of Khashoggi’s death.

Days later, Canadian Security Intelligence Service chief David Vigneault flew to Turkey to hear the same recording at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s request.

Contacted by CBC News, Turkish officials said that Canada has a “strong” record on human rights but didn’t say why Canada’s offer of help wasn’t accepted.

“Turkey’s only goal is to seek justice and accountability for this terrible crime. In this respect, we have demonstrated our readiness to co-operate with all responsible and interested actors and partners,” said a statement from the embassy sent to CBC News.

Self-exiled Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi said earlier this year that the Saudi government has been moving toward nationalist radicalism. 1:14

“We see that the international community is gradually losing its interest in this issue,” the statement continued. “It is important to reverse this trend and increase awareness. Canada is well placed to play a leading role.”

International community’s response was lacklustre: report

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on executions, conducted her own investigation this summer, stating that Saudi Arabia was responsible for Khashoggi’s “premeditated execution” and citing “credible evidence” implicating Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing. Turkey had started its own investigation before Callamard issued her report.

Callamard’s report also raked the international community over its ineffective response to Khashoggi’s murder.

“His killing was the result of elaborate planning involving extensive co-ordination and significant human and financial resources,” the report says. Callamard concluded that Khashoggi’s killing violated six international laws, including provisions on torture, misuse of consular offices and freedom of expression.

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia is currently a member of the UN Human Rights Council and is serving as host of the G20 summit this coming year.

Canada’s first concrete public step against Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s killing came six weeks after news of his death. The government introduced sanctions against 17 Saudi nationals — but the move was criticized as a half-measure.

“I don’t think it has much practical effect,” Canada’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dennis Horak told CBC’s Power & Politics at the time.

Canada weighing relationship with Saudi Arabia

The documents obtained by CBC News also show Canada was weighing the negative impact the Khashoggi case would have on its relationship with Saudi Arabia.

“The murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and involvement of the Saudi government, have complicated prospects for progress towards normalizing relations in the near-term,” says one document sent to Global Affairs staff. 

In August 2018, Saudi Arabia froze all new trade with Canada and ordered Saudi students studying at Canadian universities to relocate after Freeland tweeted her concerns about human rights activists imprisoned in the kingdom. The Saudi foreign ministry called Freeland’s statement “blatant interference” in their domestic affairs.

Canada also has been chastised by the international community for years for arranging a controversial multi-billion-dollar armoured vehicle sale to Saudi Arabia. Since Khashoggi’s death and the reports about the Saudi crown prince’s alleged involvement, those calls for Canada to pull back from the kingdom have only gotten louder.

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