Turkey 'asks to search' Saudi consulate over missing journalist

Turkey ‘asks to search’ Saudi consulate over missing journalist

Turkey sought permission Monday to search Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week, media reports said, amid claims he was murdered.

Ankara asked to search the consulate where Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi vanished last Tuesday after entering the building, Turkish NTV broadcaster reported.

A Turkish government source at the weekend said the 59-year-old had been killed. Riyadh vehemently denied the claim and said Khashoggi had left the consulate.

Ankara’s search request was made after the foreign ministry summoned the Saudi ambassador for a second time Sunday over the journalist’s disappearance.

A Turkish diplomatic source confirmed Monday that the Saudi envoy had met deputy foreign minister Sedat Onal.

“The ambassador was told that we expected full cooperation during the investigation,”

the source said. The ambassador was first summoned to the ministry on Wednesday.

Protesters gathered outside the Saudi consulate on Monday with banners reading “We will not leave without Jamal Khashoggi”, demanding to know what had happened to the reporter.

Yemeni activist and 2011 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Tawakkol Karman, said it would be an “awful crime” if the claims of his death were true.

“Killing him is like killing us. This policy is just a terror policy. There’s no difference between the state terror and other terror actions,”

she added.

– ‘Nothing to hide’ –

Khashoggi went to the consulate to obtain official documents ahead of his marriage to his Turkish fiancee. Turkish police quickly said he never left the building as there was no security footage on his departure.

The consulate rejected the claims that the journalist was killed there as “baseless”.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman previously told Bloomberg that Riyadh was “ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises”, which is Saudi sovereign territory.

“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,”

Prince Salman said in an interview published on Friday.

Khashoggi had been critical of some of the crown prince’s policies and Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen in Arab and Western media.

He once compared the 33-year-old prince to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a column for the Washington Post in November 2017.

“As of now, I would say Mohammed bin Salman is acting like Putin. He is imposing very selective justice. The crackdown on even the most constructive criticism — the demand for complete loyalty with a significant ‘or else’ — remains a serious challenge to the crown prince’s desire to be seen as a modern, enlightened leader,”

he wrote.

– Call for ‘strong action’ –

In his first comments over the disappearance, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said he was awaiting the results of an investigation.

“We hope to have results very quickly,”

Erdogan said.

“I am waiting, with high hopes.”

Erdogan also said police officers were examining CCTV footage of entrances and exits at the consulate and Istanbul airport.

But Haytham Abokhalil, an Istanbul-based Egytian presenter at Al-Sharq TV, said supporters wanted “strong action” from Erdogan.

Abokhalil and conflict expert Mohamed Okda, both friends of Khashoggi’s, demanded explanations from Prince Mohammed over the disappearance.

“We demand the international community to pressure Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman to tell us exactly what happened inside the consulate… and to tell us every detail of who was involved in this crime,”

Okda told AFP.

Saudi Arabia launched a modernisation campaign following Prince Mohammed’s appointment as heir to the throne with moves such as lifting a ban on women driving.

But the ultra-conservative kingdom, which ranks 169th out of 180 on RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, has been strongly criticised over its intolerance of dissent with dozens of people arrested including intellectuals and Islamic preachers.