Washington Post contributor has lived in self-imposed exile in the US for the past year fearing retribution for his critical views on Saudi policies
Turkey has concluded that a Saudi journalist who disappeared on Tuesday during a visit to his nation’s consulate in Istanbul was killed on the premises and his body removed from the building, an official Turkish source has confirmed to The Independent.
The news was first reported by Reuters. Turkey is said to be preparing evidence to release publicly on Sunday or Monday concerning the ongoing investigation into the the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi, a prominent Arab journalist and regular columnist for The Washington Post.
The reports of Mr Khashoggi’s possible murder at the hands of Saudi authorities came just hours after Riyadh announced it would allow Turkish authorities to inspect the consulate facility, in the upmarket Levent district on the European side of Istanbul.
One Washington-based Turkish scholar, Selim Sazak, posted on Twitter he was told by a senior Turkish official that the news about Mr Khashoggi was “not good. And by not good, I mean terrible.”
He said he was told by senior Turkish officials that though they have yet to find forensic evidence suggesting murder, circumstantial evidence Turks have collected indicates a possible Saudi operation targeting Mr Khashoggi after he initially visited on Friday, when he was told to return Tuesday to finish up paperwork ahead of a marriage to a Turkish woman, Hatice Cengiz.
“They don’t know that Jamal Khasoggi was murdered,” Mr Sazak told The Independent, summarising conversations he’s had with Turkish security contacts.
“They know that he came in, didn’t come out. They saw unusual personnel activity, including uncredentialed personnel, coming to the embassy almost immediately after Jamal Khashoggi’s first visit so they think they were dispatched from Riyadh, and they speak of an unknown staffer, acting like he was moving out the embassy, packing stuff into his trunk, and leaving at the end of business the day Jamal Khashoggi disappeared.”
“So they add up the pieces to infer that Jamal Khashoggi was incapacitated and spirited away.”
One Turkish official told Reuters: “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.”
Saudi Arabia’s consul-general told the news agency on Saturday his country was helping search for Mr Khashoggi, and dismissed talk of his possible abduction.
Mr Khashoggi has lived in self-imposed exile in Washington for the past year fearing retribution for his critical views on Saudi policies.
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 officials said prosecutors had begun investigating Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and a spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party said authorities would uncover his whereabouts.
By Borzou Daragahi