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Mystery deepens around missing Saudi journalist

09 October 2018
Mystery deepens around missing Saudi journalist

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that Saudi Arabia prove that journalist Jamal Khashoggi left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on his own as Saudi officials have repeatedly asserted after he disappeared last week while inside the mission.

Khashoggi, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the USA for the previous year, vanished Tuesday while on a visit to the consulate. "The consulate officials can not save themselves by simply saying "he has left", Erdogan told a news conference in Budapest, where he is on an official visit. "We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate", a Turkish official told Reuters on Saturday.

Turkish authorities have asked to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul for a missing Saudi journalist who is believed to have been killed inside the building.

Turan Kislakci, the head of the Turkish Arab Media Association and a friend of Mr Khashoggi's, said that Turkish officials had called him to confirm his friend's death.

Khashoggi's disappearance could put pressure on the Saudi crown prince, who has promoted an image of himself as a reformer and a reliable Western ally.

'Based on their initial findings, the police believe that the journalist was killed by a team especially sent to Istanbul and who left the same day, ' the government source told AFP on Saturday.

Turkish officials have said he was murdered inside the consulate. On Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency released a statement, quoting an official at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, who "strongly denounced these baseless allegations, and expressed his doubt that they came from Turkish officials that are informed of the investigation or are authorized to comment on the issue".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded the Saudis prove that Khashoggi left the building. I don't believe he's been killed!' his fiancee Hatice wrote on Twitter late on Saturday night.

"Jamal is a Saudi citizen whose safety and security is a top priority for the Kingdom, just as is the case with any other citizen".

"He disagreed with some of the policies of Mohammed bin Salman, but he was not a political dissident, he's not leading any organised network, he was a journalist - he wanted to write and to speak freely, and that was the reason he left Saudi Arabia".

The Justice Ministry and the chief prosecutor in Istanbul "started an investigation and efforts are continuing", Erdogan said.

He said The Post was committed to discovering the truth and that if the investigation showed any Saudi government involvement, the news organisation would view it as a flagrant attack on one of its journalists. He was seeking to secure documentation for his forthcoming marriage when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday.

"Our officials [in the Turkish government] should investigate the issue and share it with the public", Yılmaz said.

In an interview Friday with Bloomberg reporters, the Saudi crown prince said he was "very keen to know what happened" to Khashoggi.

The journalist left Saudi Arabia for the United States in summer 2017.

Khashoggi spent previous year in the USA in self-imposed exile, after he fled the kingdom amid a crackdown on intellectuals and activists who questioned the policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Human and women's rights activists, intellectuals and clerics have been arrested - meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is waging a war in Yemen that has triggered a humanitarian crisis.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has brushed aside United States President Donald Trump's warning that the oil-rich kingdom's leadership might not last "two weeks" without American military support, saying that his country existed decades before the USA.