Mon, Oct 08, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Saudi journalist believed killed in Istanbul consulate

AFP, ISTANBUL, Turkey

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor in London, England, on Sept. 29.

Photo: Reuters / Middle East Monitor

Turkish police believe Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, a government source said, but Riyadh denied the claim.

The Washington Post contributor, 59, vanished after an appointment with Saudi officials on Tuesday.

“Based on their initial findings, the police believe that the journalist was killed by a team especially sent to Istanbul and who left the same day,” the government source said on Saturday.

Police said earlier that about 15 Saudis, including officials, arrived in Istanbul on two flights on Tuesday and were at the consulate at the same time as Khashoggi.

The journalist went to the building to obtain official documents, but “did not come back out,” police were quoted as saying by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.

Ankara on Saturday said it had opened an official probe into his disappearance.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted an unnamed official at the Istanbul consulate as denying the reports of Khashoggi’s murder.

“The official strongly denounced these baseless allegations,” the agency wrote.

It said a team of Saudi investigators were in Turkey working with local authorities.

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.”

Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to receive an official document for their marriage.

In his columns, Khashoggi has been critical of some policies of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen.

The former government adviser has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since last year to avoid possible arrest.

Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and close to the journalist, said Khashoggi had made an appointment with the consulate and called to check that the documents were ready.

“His friends had warned him, ‘Don’t go there, it is not safe,’ but he said they could not do anything to him in Turkey,” Aktay said.

He said he still hoped the reports of his friend’s death were untrue.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has demanded Riyadh give “a full and credible account” of what happened to Khashoggi inside the consulate.

Reporters Without Borders said on Twitter that if reports of his death were confirmed, “this would constitute a horrific, utterly deplorable, and absolutely unacceptable assault on press freedom.”

Fred Hiatt, the director of the Washington Post’s editorial page, said if the reports were true “it is a monstrous and unfathomable act.”

Khashoggi fled from Saudi Arabia in September last year, months after Prince Mohammed was appointed heir to the throne, amid a campaign that saw dozens of dissidents arrested, including intellectuals and Muslim preachers.

Khashoggi’s criticism of Prince Mohammed’s policies have appeared in the Arab and Western press.

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