World Media

Turkey investigates claims that Saudis killed journalist

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. — File

Turkey's media are now saying with increasing certainty that the Saudi journalist who visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday and never came out was murdered by the Saudis and that his body was removed by a group of 12 Saudi officials.

Late on Saturday, Turkish sources told Reuters that Turkish authorities believed Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate last week, in what they described as the deliberate targeting of a prominent critic of the Gulf kingdom's rulers.

The Saudi authorities say Mr Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after entering to collect some official paperwork. He has not been heard of since.

"As if we Arabs need another crisis in our shattered world but that's exactly what's coming after the mysterious resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri from Riyadh last Saturday and declarations from the Saudi royal court that Iran has officially crossed a red line".

Erdogan's comments were his most direct suggestion yet of potential Saudi culpability in Khashoggi's disappearance and came after other Turkish officials have said they believe that he was killed by Saudi agents inside the consulate.

The official quoted by SPA underlined that Saudi Arabia was responsible for the safety and well-being of all its citizens, wherever they may be, and that its authorities "are diligently following up on this matter to uncover the complete facts".

Turkey has formally requested access to the Saudi consulate for a full forensic search of the premises.

On Friday, a team from Reuters news agency entered the consulate and made sure Khashoggi was not there.

Khashoggi is a longtime Saudi journalist, foreign correspondent, editor and columnist whose work has been controversial in the past in the ultraconservative Sunni kingdom.

His disappearance is likely to further deepen divisions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday, he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get documents for his forthcoming marriage.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that Saudi Arabia prove that journalist Jamal Khashoggi left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on his own.

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may not have been a household name, but his disappearance or presumed murder will be a permanent stain on his government's assertions that it's promoting social and economic reforms.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not mention Khashoggi or Saudi Arabia once during a televised address.

However, according to media reports, Turkish officials are increasingly convinced that the Saudis killed Khashoggi.

"Ever since the relationship started between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, we've bought everything with money", he told Bloomberg in an interview.

Reacting to news of the alleged murder, the journalist's Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said on Twitter that she was "waiting for an official confirmation from the Turkish government to believe it".

In a meeting with The Washington Post's publisher, Fred Ryan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States said Sunday night that it was "impossible" that such a crime could be covered up by consulate employees "and we wouldn't know about it".

"He disagreed with some of the policies of Mohammed bin Salman, but he was not a political dissident, he's not leading any organised network, he was a journalist - he wanted to write and to speak freely, and that was the reason he left Saudi Arabia".

"I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice", he wrote in September. "To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison".

The head of Saudi Arabia's diplomatic mission to Lebanon, Walid Bukhari, tweeted on Sunday that he believes the allegations the kingdom had killed Mr Khashoggi's were part of a "conspiracy".

"He said they were really good; there are just ordinary Saudis and the ordinary Saudis are good people; they don't necessarily agree with the policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman".