Turkish officials to examine Saudi consulate over journalist Khashoggi’s disappearance

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Tuesday announced that officials from the Saudi Consulate General in İstanbul have agreed to cooperate and would open their consulate buildings for examination in a search for clues pertaining to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Although consular premises are inviolable according to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the receiving state can conduct an examination in these premises with the consent of the head of the diplomatic mission,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.

“The Saudi authorities have notified us that they are open to cooperation in this regard and that an examination of their consular buildings in İstanbul can be conducted.” The statement did not specify when the inspection would take place.

Turkey’s criminal investigation on Khashoggi is focusing on seven suspects who were filmed near the consulate, according to Turkish media reports. Turkish police were limited to footage from two street cameras that monitor the street outside the consulate after Saudi officials claimed that security cameras inside the consulate were not working at the time of last week’s incident.

Private broadcaster NTV reported on Tuesday that all suspects were seen entering the consulate half an hour before Khashoggi and leaving it after almost three hours. The suspects reportedly left the area with two cars whose license plates could be read by the police.

Earlier reports said Turkish police were focusing on 15 Saudi citizens who came to Turkey on two airplanes on the day of the incident. Private Demirören News Agency reported on Tuesday that one of the planes was searched by Turkish authorities before leaving Turkey for Dubai.

It was not immediately clear whether the second plane, which left İstanbul for Egypt, was also searched. Both planes’ final destination was the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post, to which Khashoggi regularly contributed, on Tuesday published security camera footage of the Saudi journalist seen entering the Saudi Consulate on Oct. 2 at 13:14 local time.

On Monday US President Donald Trump, a close ally of the current Saudi administration, told journalists at the White House that he was concerned about the journalist’s disappearance, adding, “Right now, nobody knows anything about it.”

Khashoggi, 59, went to the consulate to obtain official documents ahead of his marriage to his Turkish fiancée. Turkish police said he never left the building.

However, Riyadh insisted Khashoggi left the consulate, while a Turkish government source at the weekend said they believe he was killed.

The consulate on Sunday rejected the claims that the journalist was killed there as “baseless” in a post on Twitter.

In his first comments on the disappearance, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday said he was awaiting the results of an investigation.

“We hope to have results very quickly,” Erdoğan said. “I am waiting with high hopes.”

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

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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