Turkish police believe Saudi journalist was killed at consulate

Turkish authorities believe that prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared four days ago after entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, was killed inside the consulate, two Turkish sources said on Saturday.

“The initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Mr. Khashoggi has been killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul. We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate,” one Turkish official told Reuters.

The sources did not say how they believed the killing was carried out. Saudi Arabia’s consul-general told Reuters on Saturday his country was helping search for Khashoggi, and dismissed talk of his possible abduction.

Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday he believed Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Arabian consulate in İstanbul. Yasin Aktay, who advises Erdogan in his ruling AKP, also told Reuters that Turkish authorities believed a group of 15 Saudi nationals were “most certainly involved” in the matter, and added that statements by Saudi officials on the absence of camera records were not sincere.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday said he is personally monitoring an investigation launched into the disappearance of Khashoggi after he entered the Saudi Consulate General in İstanbul on Oct. 2.

“We have been awaiting the results of the investigation by the prosecutor’s office. It is very sad to see that this happened in our country,” Erdoğan told journalists Ankara.

Saying that he has known Khashoggi for a long time, Erdoğan said “A friend. For this reason, I still have faith. God willing, we will not see an end that we don’t want,” and adedd that “As president of Turkey, I am following this issue. I’m pursuing it. We will undoubtedly inform the world of the results of this investigation.”

Underlining his expectation that people who believe in freedom of expression and freedom of thought will pursue the issue until the end, the Turkish president added: “All of the consulate’s exits has been examined. All entries and exits at the airport have also been examined. Our police have been doing it. We will see. We want to quickly get to the bottom of this.”

Khashoggi, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Washington for the past year fearing retribution for his critical views on Saudi policies, entered the consulate on Tuesday to secure documentation for his forthcoming marriage, according to his fiancee, who waited outside. He has not been heard of since.

Since then, Turkish and Saudi officials have offered conflicting accounts of his disappearance, with Ankara saying there was no evidence that he had left the diplomatic mission and Riyadh saying he exited the premises the same day.

Earlier on Saturday, Turkish prosecutors have begun investigating the disappearance of prominent Khashoggi, who has been missing for four days after entering the Saudi Consulate in İstanbul, according to a report by Reuters on Saturday.

On Friday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Saudi authorities would allow Turkey to search the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul for Khashoggi.

Human rights groups have called on Saudi Arabia to verify Khashoggi’s whereabouts, with Human Rights Watch calling on Turkey to deepen its investigation into the case, saying if Saudi Arabia had detained Khashoggi without acknowledging it, his detention would constitute an enforced disappearance.

It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors in Istanbul had launched the investigation on Saturday or earlier. The prosecutor’s office was not immediately available for comment.

Khashoggi is a familiar face on political talk shows on Arab satellite television networks and used to advise Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States and Britain.

Over the past year, he has written columns criticizing Saudi policies towards Qatar and Canada, the war in Yemen and a crackdown on dissent which has seen dozens of people detained.

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 236 journalists and media workers were in jail as of September 20, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 168 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 147 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.

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