Turkish authorities believe Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week.
Khashoggi has been missing since he entered the consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday, and Turkish police investigating his disappearance issued a statement saying that 15 Saudis, including several officials, entered the consulate while he was inside, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported.
Two people with knowledge of the probe told The Washington Post Saturday that Turkish investigators believe a 15-member team came from Saudi Arabia with the intent of killing Khashoggi, who was critical of Saudi Arabia’s government and contributed to the paper’s Global Opinions section.
Turkish officials said Khashoggi never left the consulate, but during an interview with Bloomberg Wednesday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he entered and left “after a few minutes or one hour.”
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He added Saudi Arabia is investigating Khashoggi’s disappearance through the foreign ministry and said it was prepared to welcome the Turkish government to search the consulate.
“The premises are sovereign territory, but we will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do. If they ask for that, of course, we will allow them. We have nothing to hide,” he said.
The Saudi consul-general in Istanbul allowed reporters from Reuters to tour the consulate on Saturday to show Khashoggi wasn’t inside.
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“I would like to confirm that … Jamal is not at the consulate nor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the consulate and the embassy are working to search for him,” said consul-general, Mohammed al-Otaibi.
The Saudi Press Agency released a statement Saturday, citing an unnamed official at the Saudi consulate who dismissed reports that Khashoggi never left.
“The official strongly denounced these baseless allegations, and expressed his doubt that they came from Turkish officials that are informed of the investigation or are authorized to comment on the issue,” the statement read.
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday he still had been following developments with “good expectations” for the situation and he hoped not to “come across a situation that is undesirable.”
“Whatever comes of this, we will be the ones to declare it to the world,” Erdogan added.
Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said he first went to the consulate at Sept. 28 to obtain a document related to their upcoming wedding and he returned Tuesday with concern he wouldn’t be allowed to leave.
At Khashoggi’s instruction, Cengiz called when he failed to return from the consulate after four hours.
Fred Hiatt, director of The Washington Post’s editorial page, issued a statement calling Khashoggi’s possible murder a “monstrous and unfathomable act.”
“Jamal was — or, as we hope, is — a committed, courageous journalist. He writes out of a sense of love for his country and deep faith in human dignity and freedom. He is respected in his country, in the Middle East and throughout the world. We have been enormously proud to publish his writings,” Hiatt said.