Turkey asks Saudi Arabia about detention of journalist over alleged Khashoggi remarks

Journalist Kurtuluş Demirbaş

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has asked for an explanation from Saudi Arabia about the detention of a Turkish journalist last week due to his alleged remarks concerning the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkish Minute reported, citing the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Kurtuluş Demirbaş was detained on July 6 in the Saudi city of Taif, where he had been covering Turkey’s U19 football team. He was expected to return to Turkey on his day of detention.

Acting on a petition from Demirbaş’s wife, Dilek, the foreign ministry sought an official explanation from Saudi authorities about the journalist’s situation.

The diplomatic source told Anadolu that Demirbaş’s family is being regularly informed on the issue.

In her petition Dilek Demirbaş said she last talked to her husband on the phone on July 5 and has not heard from him since.

She said was informed about the detention of her husband by his colleagues, who told her Demirbaş was questioned about his passport by three unknown individuals at King Fahd Stadium in Taif at around 1 a.m. on July 6 and was subsequently taken to a building behind the stadium, where he lost contact with his friends.

Dilek Demirbaş said she has concerns about his safety.

It was not clear what the journalist said about the murder of Khashoggi that led to his detention.

The 59-year-old Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate General in İstanbul on October 2, 2018 in a gruesome murder that shocked the world. Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to get papers for his upcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancée.

The murder led to tensions in Turkish-Saudi relations, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan implicitly accused Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of masterminding it.

However, Erdoğan has repaired ties with Saudi Arabia in recent years due to what many said was Turkey’s desperation for investment to help its ailing economy.

Erdoğan visited Saudi Arabia in April 2022 and July 2023. He also hosted bin Salman in Ankara in June 2022.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) has released a statement calling on Saudi authorities to release Demirbaş, expressing concerns about his safety.

“We condemn the detention of our colleague by Saudi Arabia,” said the TGC in its statement, also calling on the Turkish government to take the necessary diplomatic action to secure the journalist’s release and provide him with a lawyer.

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