Turkey checks CCTV for clues in missing Saudi journalist case
Turkish investigators are examining CCTV footage showing the moment missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul and the movements of a team suspected of involvement in his disappearance.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, vanished on October 2 after entering the consulate to obtain official documents ahead of his marriage to his Turkish fiancee.
His fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, made an appeal to US President Donald Trump in an opinion piece for the Washington Post on Tuesday, calling on him to “help shed light on Jamal’s disappearance”.
Government sources said at the weekend that police believed Khashoggi was killed by a team specially sent to Istanbul and thought to consist of 15 Saudis.
CCTV released on Wednesday by Turkish TV showed a man believed to be Khashoggi enter the consulate as well as a vehicle of interest entering and leaving the building after Khashoggi went inside.
But Riyadh insisted the 59-year-old journalist had left the building and the murder claims were “baseless”.
Khashoggi, a former Saudi government adviser, had been living in the United States since last year fearing arrest.
He has been critical of some policies of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen.
Turkish police were looking into two private aircraft that landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport on October 2 at different times carrying the individuals of interest in the case.
A source told the Washington Post that US intelligence “intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him”.
The same source said the Saudis hoped to “lure” Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia “and lay hands on him there”.
One of the first images from the CCTV footage shared by 24 TV broadcaster showed Khashoggi enter the consulate at 1.14pm (1014 GMT).
Footage also showed some of the Saudis arriving in Istanbul after the first plane landed before 0030 GMT on October 2 and the men later checking into a hotel near the consulate. Aksam daily said some of the men went into the Saudi consulate before Khashoggi.
According to the images, a vehicle that went inside the consulate was then driven to the consul-general’s residence nearby after 1200 GMT, two hours after Khashoggi had entered the mission.
Aksam newspaper’s editor-in-chief Murat Kelkitlioglu speculated on 24 TV that it was “almost certain” that Khashoggi had been taken in the vehicle.
Local media on Tuesday reported on the possibility that Khashoggi was kidnapped and taken aboard one of the private planes.
Both planes later returned to Riyadh with one stopping in Dubai and the other in Egypt, pro-government Sabah daily said.
According to Hurriyet daily, nine Saudis who arrived in Istanbul on the same day that the journalist vanished, had bought luggage at the Grand Bazaar. However, a police search revealed that they did not take the luggage on their return.
As pressure increases on Washington to intervene on the issue, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said the US was following the situation “very closely”.
President Trump expressed concern about the case while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo previously called for a thorough investigation.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which ranks the kingdom 169th out of 180 on its World Press Freedom Index, said in a statement between 25 and 30 professional and non-professional journalists are currently detained in Saudi Arabia.
RSF said at least 15 Saudi journalists and bloggers have been arrested since September 2017.