Turkey examining CCTV footage for clues in Saudi journalist disappearance

Turkish investigators are examining CCTV footage showing the moment missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the kingdom’s consulate general in Istanbul and the movements of a team suspected of involvement in his disappearance, AFP reported.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, vanished on Oct. 2 after entering the consulate to obtain official documents ahead of his marriage to his Turkish fiancée.

His fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, made an appeal to US President Donald Trump in an opinion piece for The Washington Post on Tuesday, calling on him to “help shed light on Jamal’s disappearance.”

Government sources said over the weekend that police believed Khashoggi was killed by a team specially sent to Istanbul and thought to consist of 15 Saudis.

CCTV footage released on Wednesday by Turkish TV showed a man believed to be Khashoggi enter the consulate as well as a vehicle of interest entering and leaving the compound after Khashoggi went inside.

But Riyadh insists the 59-year-old journalist left the building and that the murder claims were “baseless.”

Khashoggi, a former Saudi government adviser, had been living in the United States since last year, fearing arrest.

He has been critical of some policies of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen.

Turkish police were looking into two private aircraft that landed at Istanbul Atatürk Airport on Oct. 2 at different times carrying the individuals of interest in the case.

A source told The Washington Post that US intelligence “intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him.”

The same source said the Saudis hoped to “lure” Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia “and lay hands on him there.”

Possible kidnapping

One of the first images from the CCTV footage shared by broadcaster TV 24 broadcaster showed Khashoggi entering the consulate at 1:14 p.m. (1014 GMT).

Footage also showed some of the Saudis arriving in Istanbul after the first plane landed before 0030 GMT on Oct. 2 and the men later checking into a hotel near the consulate. The Akşam daily said some of the men went into the Saudi consulate before Khashoggi.

According to the images, a vehicle that went inside the consulate was then driven to the consul general’s nearby residence after 1200 GMT, two hours after Khashoggi had entered the mission.

Akşam’s Editor-in-Chief Murat Kelkitlioglu speculated on TV 24 that it was “almost certain” that Khashoggi had been taken in the vehicle.

Local media on Tuesday reported on the possibility that Khashoggi was kidnapped and taken aboard one of the private planes.

Both planes later returned to Riyadh, with one stopping in Dubai and the other in Egypt, the pro-government Sabah daily said.

According to the Hürriyet daily, nine Saudis who arrived in Istanbul on the same day that the journalist vanished had bought luggage at the Grand Bazaar. However, a police search revealed that they did not bring the luggage with them on their return flight.

The Sabah daily on Wednesday published the names and images of what it called the “assassination team” including a man called Salah Muhammed Al-Tubaigy, whose name it said matched that of the head of the forensics at the Saudi general security department.

Sabah added that no “body parts” appeared on scans of the belongings of seven passengers of interest in the case at the Istanbul airport.

Turkey has said Saudi authorities gave officials the green light to search the consulate but that it has not yet taken place.

‘I shouldn’t go’

As pressure increases on Washington to intervene, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said the US was following the situation “very closely.”

President Trump expressed concern about the case, while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had previously called for a thorough investigation.

In his last interview three days before his disappearance, Khashoggi said he did not think he would return to Saudi Arabia.

“When I hear of the arrest of a friend who did nothing that [deserved being] arrested, it makes me feel I shouldn’t go,” he told the BBC.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which ranks the kingdom 169th out of 180 on its World Press Freedom Index, said in a statement that between 25 and 30 professional and amateur journalists are currently detained in Saudi Arabia. RSF said at least 15 Saudi journalists and bloggers have been arrested since September 2017.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of October 7, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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