Turkey to search Saudi consulate for missing journalist

Turkish investigators will conduct a search at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday, adding that Saudi authorities are willing to cooperate.

Turkey’s judicial, security and intelligence units have been closely monitoring the developments since the day he went missing.

Khashoggi, 59, a regular contributor to The Washington Post and harsh critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, entered the Saudi Consulate on Tuesday (Oct 2) to collect some papers ahead of his marriage this week with his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz after leaving his cell phone with her outside the building.

He had instructed her to use his phone to make some calls in case he failed to come out of the consulate. When he did not emerge from the building after 11 hours, Cengiz called his friends and Turkish officials.

Saudi Arabia’s consulate maintained that Khashoggi left the building that day but they were not ready to share video footage of his departure. Turkish police finally launched a formal investigation into his disappearance.

Turkish officers, who checked video footage of two CCTV cameras installed outside the Saudi consulate, could not see the journalist leaving the embassy on foot.

Investigators said a dozen Saudi officials had arrived from the kingdom in two private jets at the consulate around the same time Khashoggi entered the building. The officials went back to Saudi Arabia the same day.

Reports suggested the officials might have spirited Khashoggi away to Riyadh or murdered him inside the consulate. Saudi Arabia has rejected such reports.

Many even in Turkey disbelieve the theory of Saudi officials coming on a dangerous mission to murder a dissident on a foreign soil and flying back. But others believe Turkish investigators may be knowing what happened to Khashoggi. The details may be too sensitive to be divulged at this stage.

Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has become involved in  the investigation. Police and MİT will jointly analyse video footage of CCTV cameras installed at the consulate’s entrance and exits and at the airports in Istanbul.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said from Budapest on Monday that the Saudi consulate must prove Khashoggi exited the premises. The consulate officials cannot save themselves by saying “he (Khashoggi) has left,” Erdogan said.

US President Donald Trump too has expressed his concern over the fate of Khashoggi.

The UK’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt told Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir that Britain expects urgent answers on Khashoggi.

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