Last Tuesday, Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and vanished, CNN reports. The outspoken critic of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was there to obtain the documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee, who waited outside the consulate for his return for hours.
Over the weekend, Turkish officials alleged that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate and his dismembered body removed but offered no evidence for their conclusion. Erdogan, Turkey’s President, stated that he is personally involved in the investigation and called Khashoggi’s disappearance “very unsettling”.
“I am following it up as the President of the Turkish Republic,” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara on Sunday, while also confirming that he had known Khashoggi for some time and considered him a friend.
“I am chasing. We will of course share the result with the world,” Erdogan added. “All the footage of entrance or exit of the embassy is under investigation.”CNN
Turkish officials have requested permission to search the consulate and have requested the Saudis cooperate in the investigation.
The Saudis insist Khashoggi left unharmed after a short visit but have offered no proof of his departure, in spite of the surveillance cameras surrounding the building. On Saturday, journalists were taken on a tour of the building, with staff opening cupboards to prove Khashoggi was not there. Saudi officials call Khashoggi’s disappearance a “grave concern” and flatly deny any involvement in statement to CBS News.
“We categorically reject any allegations of involvement in his disappearance. The Consulate in Istanbul has opened up for a walkthrough which reinforced that Jamal is not being held in the Consulate. He is not held and has not been harmed by the Saudi government. The Kingdom has sent an investigation team there to work in cooperation with the Turkish authorities. And, we are continuing to provide support wherever needed. Our sympathies go out to Jamal’s family at this time.”CBS
CBS reports that Jamal Khashoggi, a graduate of University of Indiana, had been living in self-imposed exile in the US for the past yer after a Saudi crack-down on activists and intellectuals critical of MBS, the Crown Prince.
Once an insider to the Saudi royal family, Khashoggi had been vocally critical of the regime since the Arab Spring in 2011. In September, he called the Saudi foreign policy “narrow minded”. Last year, he compared MBS to Putin, expressing a fear of returning home as he described arrests of officials critical of the regime, including a friend of his who had returned to Saudi Arabia after visiting the US as a member of an official Saudi delegation. He wrote, “That is how breathtakingly fast you can fall out of favor with Saudi Arabia.”
In a Washington Post column, he wrote that MBS “promised an embrace of social reform. . . .But all I see now is the recent wave of arrests,” of anyone who criticized the crown prince.
Freedom of the press advocates and journalist groups called on the Saudis to account for Khashoggi’s disappearance, the Washington Post reports.
“The reported state-sponsored assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a shocking abomination,” PEN America’s Senior Director of Free Expression Programs Summer Lopez said in a statement. “If Khashoggi was indeed murdered inside a diplomatic facility, it is an act of terror . . . intended to intimidate any who would speak out against the Saudi government,” Lopez said.Washington Post
The Washington Post, the newspaper Khashoggi wrote for, published excerpts from his columns over the weekend and printed an open space where his column would have been located in Friday’s edition.
The Trump administration has remained quiet about the accusations of Saudi responsibility for the journalist’s disappearance and possible death. Washington Post reports that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has privately expressed frustration with a lack of high level responses to queries. Confirmation that Saudi Arabia murdered a journalist in their consulate would complicate US-Saudi relations and likely result in pressure on Congress to reassess the relationship.
CNN reports that senior administration officials have stated that the State Department is monitoring the situation and although it can not confirm Turkish claims of Khashoggi’s death, the administration is working via several agencies seeking answers.