- Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and critic, went missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last Tuesday.
- Turkish officials reportedly believe a 15-member team “came from Saudi Arabia” and carried out a “preplanned murder” on him.
- The New Yorker reported on Sunday that Khashoggi had feared for his life since at least August this year.
- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman denied knowledge of the attack and said his kingdom had “nothing to hide.”
- Turkey has reportedly asked for permission to search the consulate as its president said he was “still hopeful” that Khashoggi was alive.
- Canadian officials have expressed concern. US State Department officials are reportedly frustrated by the lack of a substantive response to Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Jamal Khashoggi, the missing Saudi journalist and critic whom Turkish officials say was killed in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, feared for his life as early as August.
The 59-year-old journalist, who contributed to The Washington Post, had been “convinced” in August that the Saudi Arabian leadership was out to kill him, The New Yorker’s Robin Wright wrote on Sunday.
Wright wrote: “‘Of course, they’d like to see me out of the picture,’ he said. He’d said it to me before, but by then he had been in exile, in Washington, for more than a year, so I thought he was exaggerating the dangers. Maybe not.”
Khashoggi lived in self-imposed exile in the US for the past year and vanished last Tuesday while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He had been trying to obtain a document to verify his divorce so that he could remarry, the BBC reported.
His fiancée, a Turkish woman named Hatice, said she waited for Khashoggi outside the consulate from 1:00 p.m. local time until after midnight, and did not see him leave, the BBC said. She also returned when the consulate reopened the next day.
Turkish investigators believe a 15-member team “came from Saudi Arabia,” and that “it was a preplanned murder,” The Washington Post reported, citing an unnamed person who has knowledge of the investigation.
Turan Kislakci, a friend of Khashoggi and the head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, told the Associated Press that Khashoggi was made to “faint,” and was dismembered. This allegation was based on conversations with Turkish officials he did not name, the Associated Press said.
Yasin Aktay, an advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and friend of Khashoggi, also told Reuters: “My sense is that he has been killed… in the consulate.”
Hatice, Khashoggi’s fiancée, also tweeted on Saturday: “Jamal is not dead! I don’t believe he’s been killed!”
— Hatice Cengiz / خديجة (@mercan_resifi) October 6, 2018
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia – whose hardline crackdown on dissent has intensified over the past year – has denied knowledge of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Erdogan, however, said he was “hopeful” that Khashoggi is still alive. Turkey has reportedly asked for permission to search the Istanbul consulate.
Saudi: “We have nothing to hide”
Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old crown prince of Saudi Arabia known as “MBS,” has denied knowledge of Khashoggi’s disappearance and even said he would let Turkish investigators search the Istanbul consulate.
He told Bloomberg on Wednesday: “We hear the rumours about what happened. He’s a Saudi citizen and we are very keen to know what happened to him. And we will continue our dialogue with the Turkish government to see what happened to Jamal there.”
He also claimed that Khashoggi “entered and he got out after a few minutes or one hour,” and that he was “ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises.”
“We have nothing to hide,” the prince said.
Erdogan: “I am still hopeful”
Erdogan, Turkey’s president, said he was personally following news of Khashoggi’s incident and that he was “still hopeful” that the journalist was alive.
He told reporters on Sunday, according to Al Jazeera, that Turkish authorities were examining all surveillance video footage of the consulate’s entrances and monitoring flights to and from Turkey since Khashoggi’s Tuesday disappearance.
“I am following the [issue] and we will inform the world whatever the outcome” of the official investigation, Erdogan said, as cited by Al Jazeera. “God willing, we will not be faced with a situation we do not want. I still am hopeful.”
“It is very, very upsetting for us that it happened in our country,” he added.
Turkish authorities on Monday requested permission to search the Saudi consulate, Reuters reported, citing local media. The country also summoned Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the Turkish foreign ministry, and asked him to be “in full coordination” on the probe, Reuters said.
Canada, US “concerned”
Adam Austen, a spokesman for Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, said according to Agence France-Presse: “We are aware of and concerned by these reports. Canadian officials are actively seeking more information.”
Khashoggi’s disappearance comes amid a diplomatic feud between Riyadh and Ottawa, which came about after Freeland said she was “gravely concerned” about the country’s human rights record.
Saudi Arabia retaliated by cancelling flights to Canada, recalling thousands of students studying there, cutting investment, and making bizarre allegations that Canada was one of the world’s worst oppressors of women.
The US has not issued any official statement, but officials from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s office are frustrated with the lack of a substantive response to queries about Khashoggi’s fate,The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed administration officials.
Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted on Sunday: “I pray Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is alive. But if this deeply disturbing news report is confirmed, the United States & the civilized world must respond strongly, and I will review all options in Senate.”
Saudi’s crackdown has intensified under MBS
Earlier this month researchers in Toronto reported that agents working on behalf of Saudi Arabia were secretly installing spyware on people’s smartphones to crack down on critics living abroad. The spy software enables hackers to access messages, photos, microphone, and camera, researchers at Citizen Lab reported.
The software had been actively monitoring targets in countries including Canada, France, Jordan, Turkey, Qatar, and the UK. There is no indication at this point that Khashoggi was targeted by such software.
The kingdom’s crackdown on dissent has hardened since Mohammed bin Salman’s appointment to Crown Prince in 2017.
In August, the country arrested the family and friends of Omar Abdulaziz, a prominent Saudi critic living in Canada, in an effort to stop him from speaking out against the regime. Around the same time, the kingdom sentenced a woman to death for political activism for the first time.
Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division, told The New Yorker on Sunday: “Above and beyond the persecution of activists, writers, clerics, scholars, and businessmen inside Saudi, where the Saudis could claim some kind of process,’ the apparent kidnapping of Khashoggi is now a pattern of attacks where the Saudis don’t even make a pretense of legality.”
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