Turkish officials to search Saudi consulate in missing journalist probe

Turkish officials to search Saudi consulate in missing journalist probe

Turkish authorities are to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul as part of an investigation into the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Foreign Ministry said Saudi authorities have notified Ankara that they are “open to co-operation” and will allow the consulate building to be searched.

The ministry did not say when the premises would be searched.

Mr Khashoggi disappeared a week ago after entering the consulate to obtain paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee.

Members of the Turkish-Arab journalist Association hold posters with photos of missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)
Members of the Turkish-Arab journalist Association hold posters with photos of missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Turkish officials have alleged he was killed in the compound, but Saudis officials said he left the building unharmed.

Saudi Arabia has called the allegations that it killed the 59-year-old “baseless” but has offered no evidence to show he left the building.

It came as the Washington Post published a surveillance image of Mr Khashoggi walking into the consulate, just before he disappeared.

The image had a date and time stamp, as well as a Turkish caption bearing Mr Khashoggi’s name and that he was arriving at the consulate.

The Post said “a person close to the investigation” shared the image with them.

The door Mr Khashoggi walked through appeared to be the main entrance of the consulate in Istanbul’s 4th Levent neighbourhood, a leafy, upscale district near the city’s financial hub which is home to several other consulates.

However, the consulate has other entrances and exits through which Saudi officials insist he left.

It is unclear which camera the footage came from or who operated it. However, a number of CCTV cameras surround the area.

If the story the Saudis are telling, that he just walked out ... after half an hour, if that's true, they ought to have facts and documents and evidence and tapes to back that up

Friends of Mr Khashoggi said Turkish police have taken possession of footage from the neighbourhood as part of their investigation.

“If the story that was told about the murder is true, the Turks must have information and videotape and other documents to back it up,” said Fred Hiatt, the Post’s editorial page editor.

“If the story the Saudis are telling, that he just walked out … after half an hour, if that’s true, they ought to have facts and documents and evidence and tapes to back that up.”

He added that the “idea of a government luring one of its own citizens on to its own diplomatic property in a foreign country to murder him for the peaceful expression of his views would be unimaginable”.

Mr Khashoggi had been living since last year in the US, in a self-imposed exile, in part due to the rise of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman.

As a contributor to the Post, he has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticising its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving.

All those issues have been viewed as being pushed by Prince Mohammed, who has led round-ups of activists, businessmen and others in the kingdom.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Presidential Press Service/AP)
Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Presidential Press Service/AP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday urged the Saudis to back up their claim that Mr Khashoggi left the consulate.

“Now when this person enters, whose duty is it to prove that he left or not? It is (the duty) of the consulate officials,” Mr Erdogan said.

“Don’t you have cameras and other things? Why don’t you prove it? You have to prove it.”

- Press Association

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