Turkey to search Saudi consulate in Istanbul over missing journalist

Britain seeking ‘urgent answers’ following disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman and Egyptian opposition politician Ayman Nour (left) hold pictures of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on Monday. Photograph: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman and Egyptian opposition politician Ayman Nour (left) hold pictures of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on Monday. Photograph: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

 

Turkey said on Tuesday it would search Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul where Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi vanished last week, as close ally Britain called on Riyadh to provide “urgent answers” over his disappearance.

Mr Khashoggi was last seen a week ago entering the consulate in Istanbul to get documents related to his forthcoming marriage. His fiancee, waiting outside, said he never emerged and Turkish sources said they believe Mr Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi policies, was killed inside the mission.

Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan asked Saudi Arabia on Monday to prove its assertion that Mr Khashoggi left the consulate, while Washington urged the kingdom to support an investigation.

Saudi Arabia has dismissed as baseless accusations that it killed or abducted Mr Khashoggi, and on Tuesday Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu agency said Riyadh had invited Turkish experts and other officials to visit the consulate.

Turkish authorities are examining motorway cameras in the search for a black van they believe carried the body of Mr Khashoggi from the consulate – one of six cars investigators say belonged to a Saudi hit squad thought to be behind his suspected murder.

Officials say the convoy left the consulate about two hours after Mr Khashoggi entered. Security camera footage shows boxes being loaded into the van, which carried diplomatic number plates.

Britain urged the Saudi government to explain what happened. “Just met the Saudi ambassador to seek urgent answers over Jamal Khashoggi,” foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Twitter.

“Violence against journalists worldwide is going up and is a grave threat to freedom of expression. If media reports prove correct, we will treat the incident seriously – friendships depend on shared values,” he wrote.

Turkey’s foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the investigation was “continuing intensively”. The Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations allowed for consulates to be searched by authorities of a host country with consent of the mission chief, he said.

“The consulate building will be searched in the framework of the investigation,” Mr Aksoy said in a written statement.

There was no immediate comment on the report from the Saudi authorities.

Mr Khashoggi left his country last year saying he feared retribution for his criticism of Saudi policy over the Yemen war and its crackdown on dissent, and since then wrote columns for the Washington Post. His disappearance sparked global concern.

Women detained

US president Donald Trump said on Tuesday he had not yet spoken to Saudi officials about the case. Speaking at the White House, he said he did not know anything about Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and that he would speak with Saudi officials at some point.

The United Nations human rights office urged both Turkey and Saudi Arabia to investigate what it called the “apparent enforced disappearance” and possible murder of Mr Khashoggi.

“We call for co-operation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the circumstances of Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and to make the findings public,” UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a Geneva news briefing.

The two countries have such an obligation under both criminal law and international human rights law, she said.

In July, the UN human rights office called on Saudi Arabia to release all peaceful activists it has detained, including women held for campaigning against a ban on driving as it was being lifted.

Mr Khashoggi was once a Saudi newspaper editor and is a familiar face on political talk shows on Arab satellite television networks. He used to advise Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States and Britain.

His disappearance is likely to further deepen divisions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Relations were already strained after Turkey sent troops to the Gulf state of Qatar last year in a show of support after its Gulf neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, imposed an embargo on Doha.

Two Turkish sources told Reuters on Saturday that Turkish authorities believe Mr Khashoggi was deliberately killed inside the consulate, a view echoed by one of Mr Erdogan’s advisers, Yasin Aktay, who is a friend of the Saudi journalist.

Mr Erdogan told reporters on Sunday that authorities were examining camera footage and airport records as part of their investigation. He has also said Turkey had no documents or evidence regarding the case.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU fully supported US secretary of state Mike Pompeo in his call for Riyadh to investigate Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance. – Reuters and Guardian