Saudi journalist 'killed inside consulate', Turkish police suspect

Published: October 07, 2018 18:00:56 | Updated: October 09, 2018 13:38:26

A demonstrator holding picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest in front of Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul recently. -Reuters Photo

Fears are growing over missing Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he has been murdered.

Khashoggi, a Saudi national, went missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday, reports BBC on Sunday.

A Turkish official said that initial investigations indicated he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate.

Saudi Arabia has denied the accusations, saying it is "working to search for him".

The Washington Post said it would be a "monstrous and unfathomable act" if he had been killed.

The BBC's Istanbul correspondent, Mark Lowen, said it would plunge Turkish-Saudi relations into an unprecedented crisis.

Turkish officials have opened an investigation and have been speaking to the media on condition of anonymity.

The deputy chairman of Turkey's ruling AK Party told broadcaster CNN Turk there was concrete evidence, according to Reuters news agency, but none has yet been presented.

When was he last seen?

Jamal Khashoggi is a high-profile critic of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

He has more than 1.6 million Twitter followers and has written for the Washington Post opinion section.

On Tuesday, he went to the consulate to obtain a document certifying he had divorced his ex-wife, so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

Cengiz said she waited outside for 11 hours, but he did not come out.

She said Khashoggi was required to surrender his mobile phone, which is standard practice in some diplomatic missions.

He told her to call an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he did not return.

"Jamal is not dead. I cannot believe that he has been killed...!" Cengiz wrote on Twitter as the allegations circulated. She said she was waiting for official confirmation.

The head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, Turan Kislakci, told the New York Times that Turkish police officers providing security for the consulate had checked their security cameras and did not see the journalist leave on foot.

But he added that diplomatic cars had been seen moving in and out.

What have the Saudis said?

On Wednesday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that Turkish authorities were welcome to search the building because "we have nothing to hide".

The prince said the Saudis were "very keen to know what happened to him", saying his understanding was that Khashoggi left "after a few minutes or one hour".

When asked if Khashoggi faced charges in Saudi Arabia, the crown prince said his country would need to know where he was first.

Who is Jamal Khashoggi?

The 59-year-old journalist is one of the most prominent critics of the crown prince, who has unveiled reforms praised by the West while carrying out an apparent crackdown on dissent.

Human and women's rights activists, intellectuals and clerics have been arrested - meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is waging a war in Yemen that has triggered a humanitarian crisis.

A former editor of the al-Watan newspaper and a short-lived Saudi TV news channel, Mr Khashoggi was for years seen as close to the Saudi royal family. He served as an adviser to senior Saudi officials.

After several of his friends were arrested, his column was cancelled by the al-Hayat newspaper and he was allegedly warned to stop tweeting, Mr Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia for the US, from where he wrote opinion pieces for the Washington Post and continued to appear on Arab and Western TV channels.

"I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice," he wrote in September 2017. "To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot."

The Washington Post on Friday blanked out his column in support.

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