What happened to Jamal Khashoggi? That question has occupied the whole of Turkey and Saudi Arabia for a week. The Saudi government-critical journalist then stepped into the consulate of his country in Istanbul, but never came out again. According to Turkish sources, he was tortured there by secret agents from Riyadh, murdered and then smuggled out of the consulate.
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi citizen, author, former editor-in-chief of news channel Al Arab, over one and a half million followers on Twitter, studied in the US and columnist for The Washington Post. In short: a globally respected journalist who does not shy away from criticism of the strict regime in Saudi Arabia. He fled his motherland a year ago for the US, but also continued to write articles from abroad in which he also criticized crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, the de facto ruler in the country.
The 59-year-old Khashoggi disappeared on Tuesday. That day he had an appointment at the Turkish consulate to get his divorce papers officially in order to marry a day later with his Turkish fiancée. Before he left, he took his precautions: he told friends where he was going, asked them for advice, and gave his fiancée a number that she could call if he did not return. In addition, Bin Salman had publicly stated that Khashoggi should not have any fear and that he was welcome to return to his homeland. “The only thing they can do is question me and I can give them answers. I have nothing to hide,” says a fellow journalist and friend who spoke to Khashoggi just before he left.
Never leave building
Yet it went wrong. Camera images from the street show how Khashoggi enters the consulate, but what happens next, only the Saudis know. Because Khashoggi never left the building again, according to analyses of the same camera images. The Turkish authorities fear more and more every day that Khashoggi in the consulate was awaited to a special team of Saudi elite agents who were flown in from the capital Riyadh.
That specially composed ‘murder team’ of 15 men was commissioned by crown prince Bin Salman to torture Khashoggi in the heart of the Turkish capital and then to kill him, anonymous Turkish sources said in the past few days. His body have been cut into pieces after torture and the consulate then have been smuggled him out. Everything has been filmed as evidence for the authorities in the home country.
Khashoggi’s disappearance puts the relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia under high tension. Turkey demands clarification and conducts an investigation, but this is difficult due to the sensitive diplomatic relations between the two countries. A search is also not possible, because a consulate is diplomatically protected. Bin Salman offered the Turks Friday to visit the consulate.
Moreover, Turkey does not have to count on too much cooperation from the Saudi side. Because that’s what it sounds like the journalist just stepped outside the consulate. What happened to him afterwards, the Saudis do not officially know either.
Turkey has been analysing hundreds of hours of camera images, aircraft data and other data, and in this way has already established the existence of the 15-membered murder commando. There would be images of how the convoy enters the consulate, and leaves the same day, hours after Khashoggi stepped inside. The 15-membered murder commando have entered Turkey on Saturday with two scheduled flights. At the same time, large boxes have been loaded into black cars.
Turkey also looks at foreign affiliates and NATO in the case, but those relationships are also sensitive. Saudi Arabia is the largest American ally in the Middle East in the fight against Iran and terrorism. Observers fear that Khashoggi might be the victim of a test by crown prince Bin Salman to see how far President Trump dares to go against his country in support of another NATO member state.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday to hope for a positive outcome in the case. According to Erdogan, the available camera images are viewed and airports are looking for Khashoggi. The ruling AK party promised to find Khashoggi and provide clarification in this case. “We find out how things are with the missing journalist. We will reveal details about him and those responsible,” said Ömer Çelik spokesperson at a party meeting led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He added that the issue is extremely sensitive in Turkey.
The Washington Post left Khashoggi’s column empty last Thursday. “If the reports of the murder of Jamal are true, it is a monstrous and inscrutable act,” the newspaper responded. Khashoggi denounced in columns politics regarding Qatar and Canada, the war in Yemen and the punitive expeditions against people with a different opinion.
On his Twitter account it remains silent in the meantime. The last update dates from October 1, the day before his disappearance. Human rights Watch requires an international investigation.