At this stage Saudi official sources are denying it – but it seems increasingly likely that veteran journalist Jamal Kasshoggi was lured into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, murdered and smuggled in pieces out of the building.
Kashoggi had been living in the United States and writing articles critical of the Saudi regime which were published in the Washington Post and elsewhere.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Oct. 7 he was “personally” following the case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared last week, and added that he still hoped for a positive outcome to the matter.
“Whatever comes of this, we will be the ones to declare it to the world,” the president said, while answering reporters’ questions in the capital Ankara. “It is very, very upsetting for us that it happened in our country,” he said.
A presidential adviser said on Oct. 7 that Khashoggi had not left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in “normal ways.” Turkish authorities have concrete information on Khashoggi’s disappearance and the case would not go unsolved, Yasin Aktay told broadcaster CNN Türk.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported on the night of Oct. 6 that Turkish investigators believe Khashoggi was killed in “a preplanned murder” at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, citing two anonymous officials.
One Turkish official also told The Associated Press that detectives’ “initial assessment” was that Khashoggi was killed at the consulate, without elaborating. Saudi authorities early Oct. 7 called the allegation “baseless.”
Khashoggi, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for the last year, vanished on Oct. 2 while on a visit to the consulate.
The Post cited one anonymous official who said investigators believe a 15-member team “came from Saudi Arabia.” The official added: “It was a preplanned murder.”
Khashoggi, 59, went missing while on a visit to the consulate in Istanbul for paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée. The consulate insists the writer left its premises, contradicting Turkish officials.
As a contributor to the Post, Khashoggi has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticizing 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 similarly has led roundups of activists, businessmen and others in the kingdom.
“With young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power, he promised an embrace of social and economic reform,” Khashoggi wrote in his first column for the Post. “But all I see now is the recent wave of arrests.”
Khashoggi maintained ties with Saudi elites, including those in its intelligence apparatus, and launched a satellite news channel, Al-Arab, from Bahrain in 2015 with the backing of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
The channel was on air for less than 11 hours before it was shut down. Its billionaire backer was detained in the Ritz Carlton roundup overseen by Prince Mohammed in 2017.
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, expressed shock over the news.
“If this is true—that the Saudis lured a U.S. resident into their consulate and murdered him—it should represent a fundamental break in our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.