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COMPELLING CLUES: Journalist ‘killed’ in the Saudi consulate

Tuesday - 16/10/2018 14:46
LATEST: Police have reportedly found “evidence” that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi pictured at a press conference on December 15, 2014. Picture: Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFPSource:AFP
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi pictured at a press conference on December 15, 2014. Picture: Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFPSource:AFP

TURKISH officials say evidence has been found in a Saudi consulate that confirms a prominent writer was killed there.

An official told the Associated Press police found “certain evidence” during their searches of the consulate in Istanbul where Jamal Khashoggi went into two weeks ago. The vocal Saudi critic hasn’t been seen since.

Turkish investigators have said they believed Khashoggi may have been murdered and his body cut to pieces after being attacked by a Saudi death squad.

No details of the evidence have been provided.

The development comes after confirmation US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met for just 15 minutes with the Saudi King while on a fact finding mission for Donald Trump.

Mr Pompeo flew to the Saudi capital Riyadh with the intention of getting the truth about the likely death of, who hasn’t been seen since he went into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago.

Mr Trump wanted him to have “face-to-face” meetings. But CNN reported Mr Pompeo had only a short discussion with King Salman and the US is no closer to finding out what happened.

Mr Pompeo then had a longer meeting with the King’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo “thanked the King for his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation” of the Khashoggi case and expressed “concern” about the case to the foreign minister.

However, there was no new explanation from Saudi Arabia about what could have happened to Khashoggi.

In the United States a Republican ally of Mr Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham, said he believed the crown prince “has to go”.

The senator said he had been a big supporter of Saudi Arabia, but vowed not to return to the country while the prince was in power.

‘ETERNAL HELLFIRE’

Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to admit its agents killed Khashoggi who was in the consulate to sort out marriage paperwork.

His fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, tweeted a Quranic verse on Tuesday promising “eternal hellfire” for the killers of “deliberate believers.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that investigators searched for traces of “toxic materials” at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where Khashoggi disappeared from two weeks ago.

Earlier today, the family of Khashoggi confirmed they were still “sadly and anxiously” awaiting official news about what happened to him as urgent talks between the US and Saudi Arabia commence.

“We are sadly and anxiously following the conflicting news regarding the fate of our father after losing contact with him two weeks ago, when he disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul,” the statement from Khashoggi’s family read.

“Our family is traumatised, and yearns to be together during this painful time.

“The strong moral and legal responsibility which our father instilled in us obliges us to call for the establishment of an independent and impartial international commission to inquire into the circumstances of his death.”

The family’s emotional statement coincided with US media reports the Saudi kingdom may be mulling an admission Khashoggi died during a botched interrogation.

“Rogue killers” could be to blame for the disappearance of Khashoggi, who has not been seen since he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to sort out marriage paperwork, US President Donald Trump said after telephone talks with the king.

CCTV footage obtained from Turkish news agency DHA shows Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (right) arriving at the Saudi Arabian consulate. He never reappeared. Picture: Demiroren News Agency/AFP
CCTV footage obtained from Turkish news agency DHA shows Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (right) arriving at the Saudi Arabian consulate. He never reappeared. Picture: Demiroren News Agency/AFPSource:AFP

Turkish police on Monday searched the consulate for the first time since Khashoggi, a Saudi national and US resident who became increasingly critical of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, went missing.

Turkish officials have said they believe he was killed — a claim Saudi Arabia has denied — with the controversy dealing a huge blow to the kingdom’s image and efforts by its youthful crown prince to showcase a reform drive.

But US media reported on Monday that the kingdom is considering an admission that Khashoggi died after an interrogation that went wrong during an intended abduction.

Until Monday, Riyadh had not allowed Turkish investigators to search the consulate — officially Saudi territory — with reports both sides were at odds over the conditions.

The investigators, who arrived in a motorcade of six cars late Monday, left the premises in the early hours of Tuesday after an eight-hour search, an AFP correspondent reported.

They took samples with them, including soil from the consulate garden that was loaded into vans, one official at the scene said.

A Saudi delegation had entered the consulate one hour before the Turkish police arrived and appeared still to be inside as the search was conducted.

SAUDIS TO ‘ADMIT’ KILLING JOURNALIST

Citing two unnamed sources, CNN has reported Saudi Arabia is preparing a report that would admit Khashoggi was killed as the result of an interrogation that went wrong.

One source cautioned the report was still being prepared and could change, CNNsaid on Monday.

The other source said the report would likely conclude that the operation was carried out without clearance and that those involved will be held responsible, the cable news outlet said.

The disappearance has sparked global outrage and demands for a full investigation of his death.

Jamal Khashoggi with fiancee Hatice Cengiz.
Jamal Khashoggi with fiancee Hatice Cengiz.Source:Supplied

Khashoggi, a Saudi national and US resident who became increasingly critical of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has not been seen since he walked into the Istanbul consulate on October 2 to sort out paperwork ahead of his marriage.

“When we arrived at the consulate, he went right in. He told me to alert the Turkish authorities if I did not hear from him soon,” Ms Cengiz revealed in a New York Times opinion piece.

Turkish officials have said they believe he was killed inside the consulate — a claim Saudi Arabia has previously denied — with the controversy dealing a huge blow to the kingdom’s image and efforts by its youthful crown prince to showcase a reform drive.

US President Donald Trump said he has sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with King Salman about the journalist’s disappearance.

Earlier, Mr Trump told reporters that Salman denied any knowledge of the death and issued a “flat denial”.

“It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers, who knows,” Mr Trump said.

Saudi investigation delegation enter the consulate. Picture: Ozan Kose/AFP
Saudi investigation delegation enter the consulate. Picture: Ozan Kose/AFPSource:AFP

Government sources said at the weekend that police believed Khashoggi was killed by a team specially sent to Istanbul, thought to consist of 15 Saudis. But Riyadh insisted the 59-year-old journalist had left the building and the murder claims were “baseless”.

Tensions between the kingdom and the US have risen after Mr Trump warned of “severe punishment” if the Saudis are proved responsible.

In a 60 Minutes interview, the US leader said the consequences of Saudi Arabia being involved in Khashoggi’s death would be “severe”.

“There’s something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that was the case, so we’re going to have to see,” Mr Trump said. “We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”

He also said: “As of this moment, they deny it and they deny it vehemently. Could it be them? Yes.”

He said it’s “looking like” the Saudi journalist was dead.

But previously, Mr Trump has said “we would be punishing ourselves” by cancelling arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which his administration touted on his first overseas trip.

Earlier this week, the Saudi kingdom warned it would “respond with greater action” to any threats of economic or political pressure from the West.

In a furious opinion piece, Turki Aldakhil, general manager of the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel, warned the US “will stab its own economy to death” if it tried to impose sanctions.

Aldakhil warned such actions would cause oil prices to rise as high as $200 a barrel, drive the Middle East towards Iran and lead Riyadh to permit a Russian military base in the city of Tabuk.

Turkish police officers gather as they prepare to enter the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Monday. Picture: Petros Giannakouris/AP
Turkish police officers gather as they prepare to enter the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Monday. Picture: Petros Giannakouris/APSource:AP

But international pressure is mounting. France, Germany and the UK have demanded a credible investigation, saying: “We encourage joint Saudi-Turkish efforts in that regard, and expect the Saudi Government to provide a complete and detailed response”.

Britain and the US are also considering boycotting a major international conference in Saudi Arabia later this month.

Canada’s foreign minister also called Monday for a full and transparent probe during a call with her Saudi counterpart.

“I emphasised that those responsible must be held to account. I have been in very close touch with our G7 and NATO allies on this issue” Chrystia Freeland said.

It comes as Turkish and Saudi investigators on Monday were to begin conducting what Turkish officials called a joint “inspection” of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

A demonstrator dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with blood on his hands protests outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, on October 8. Picture: Jim Watson/AFP
A demonstrator dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with blood on his hands protests outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, on October 8. Picture: Jim Watson/AFPSource:AFP

megan.palin@news.com.au | @Megan_Palin

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