US & World

Jamal Khashoggi: Turkey ‘wants Saudi consulate search for missing man’

A Saudi official enters the door of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 7 October 2018Image copyright AFP / Getty Images
Image caption Saudi officials have let some journalists inside the consulate since the allegation was made

Turkey has requested a search of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, after saying that a journalist was murdered within its walls, media reports say.

Missing writer Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi national, was last seen visiting the consulate on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia has called the allegations baseless.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has previously said officials are welcome to conduct a search as there is nothing to hide.

Turkish officials made the accusation on Sunday. They said their investigators had “concrete proof” of the killing which, they said, was carried out by a 15-person Saudi team who arrived in the country last week.

No evidence has been presented.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A protester outside the consulate holds up a picture of Jamal Khashoggi

Mr Khashoggi had been living in the US, where he contributed articles to the Washington Post’s opinion section. The newspaper said the US should demand answers from the Saudis.

“If true, this is a horrific crime, the assassination of a journalist in his own country’s consulate on foreign soil – something without precedent in modern times,” the newspaper wrote on Monday.

When was he last seen?

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

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The journalist’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz said she had waited outside for 11 hours, but he did not come out

She said Mr Khashoggi had been 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.

What has Turkey said?

Turkish officials say Mr Khashoggi was killed on the premises and his body was then removed.

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.

Mr Erdogan was more circumspect, saying on Sunday he remained “positive” and would await the results of an investigation as Turkish authorities continued to look at camera footage, and airport arrivals and departures.

Turkey’s state news agency, quoting unnamed sources, said Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Ankara, Waleed A Elkhereiji, had been summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry on Sunday.

Turkey’s NTV broadcaster reported that a request had been made to search the consulate after the meeting with the ambassador.

We may never know

Analysis by BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner

The allegations of what the Saudi authorities may have done to one of their most prominent critics are – if proven – horrific. But the evidence has yet to be produced, leaving everyone guessing what could have happened to him after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

I have known Jamal Khashoggi for 18 years and although outspoken, he was not one to take unplanned risks. Yes, he knew he had riled the all-powerful Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman with his widely read criticisms of MBS’ increasingly heavy-handed rule. But Mr Khashoggi thought he had the situation under control.

Instead, Saudis I have spoken to believe that, despite official denials, one possible scenario is that he was abducted inside the consulate, driven out in a diplomatic vehicle and “rendered” back to Saudi Arabia to either face retribution or be held incommunicado under indefinite house arrest.

The worrying thing is, we may never know.

What have the Saudis said?

Saudi Arabia said the allegations were baseless. It has allowed journalists into the consulate to show Mr Khashoggi is not there, reportedly even opening cupboards.

On Wednesday, Crown Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg News that Turkish authorities were welcome to search the building.

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

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Saudi consulate said Khashoggi left after completing paperwork

Who is Jamal Khashoggi?

He is a high-profile critic of the crown prince. Mr Khashoggi, 59, has more than 1.6 million Twitter followers and has written for the Washington Post opinion section.

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.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionJamal Khashoggi: Saudi Arabia needs reform, but one-man rule is “bad” for the kingdom

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.

How does this play out politically?

The allegation alone is enough to damage the countries’ relationship, which has already been under some strain.

Turkey backed Qatar when it was being targeted by a Saudi blockade. Turkey also backed Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran during its US trade disputes.

Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance also puts pressure on US President Donald Trump to get tougher on Saudi Arabia, which is one of its strongest Middle Eastern allies.

Turkey and the US are Nato allies but their relationship has also been tense recently, following disagreements over trade and the case of American preacher Andrew Brunson, who has been held by Turkish authorities.

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