Washington Post writer who fiercely criticized the Saudi government ‘was tortured, murdered and cut into pieces inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul’, Turkish police claim

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Washington Post writer who fiercely criticized the Saudi government ‘was tortured, murdered and cut into pieces inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul’, Turkish police claim

A regime-critical Saudi journalist who went missing after visiting his country’s consulate in Istanbul was ‘tortured, murdered and cut to pieces’, Turkish police claim.

Jamal Khashoggi, 59, entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in the Turkish capital to obtain official documents for his upcoming wedding, and ‘never came back out again’.

Turkish police believe Khashoggi was murdered inside the building, which Riyadh fiercely denies, instead claiming the journalist disappeared after leaving the consulate on Tuesday afternoon.

Turkish police believe Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, a government source said, but Riyadh denied the claim

Khashoggi, who has been a vocal critic of of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s policies, was brutally tortured before he was murdered, a police source told Middle East Eye.

‘Everything was videotaped to prove the mission had been accomplished and the tape was taken out of the country,’ the source said.

Police said earlier that around 15 Saudis, including officials, arrived in Istanbul on two flights on Tuesday and were at the consulate at the same time as Khashoggi.

‘Based on their initial findings, the police believe that the journalist was killed by a team especially sent to Istanbul and who left the same day,’ a government source told AFP on Saturday.

Ankara announced on Saturday it had opened an official probe into his disappearance and are closely monitoring the Saudi Consulate and Istanbul’s airports, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today.

Mr Erdogan said he is still hopeful that Jamal Khashoggi is alive.

‘God willing we will not be faced with the situation we do not desire,’ he added, calling Mr Khashoggi a ‘journalist and a friend’.

The journalist’s Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said he had visited the consulate to receive an official document for their marriage

Khashoggi reportedly went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday, but never came back out again

The state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted an unnamed official at the Istanbul consulate as denying the reports of Khashoggi’s murder.

‘The official strongly denounced these baseless allegations,’ the agency wrote. It said a team of Saudi investigators were in Turkey working with local authorities.

Reacting to the news, the journalist’s Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said on Twitter she was ‘waiting for an official confirmation from the Turkish government to believe it’.

Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to receive an official document for their marriage, with Ms Cengiz, 36, left waiting outside – but he never came back.

In his newspaper columns for the Washington Post, Khashoggi has been critical of some policies of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen.

The former government adviser, who turns 60 on October 13, has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since last year to avoid possible arrest.

Writing in the Washington Post in February this year, he stated that ‘writers like me, whose criticism is offered respectfully, seem to be considered more dangerous than the more strident Saudi opposition based in London’.

He also said that the campaign for the country to back the Crown Prince’s ‘Vision 2030’- the policies he hopes will usher in a more prosperous future – ‘has sucked the oxygen from the once-limited but present public square’.

Fred Hiatt, the director of the Washington Post’s editorial page, said if the reports were true ‘it is 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,’ Hiatt said in a statement on the US newspaper’s website.

Yasin Aktay, an official in Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who was close to the journalist, said Khashoggi had made an appointment in advance with the consulate and called to check the documents were ready.

In his opinion articles, Khashoggi has been critical of some policies of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen

‘His friends had warned him, ‘Don’t go there, it is not safe,’ but he said they could not do anything to him in Turkey,’ said Aktay.

He added that he still hoped the reports of his friend’s death were untrue.

Britain ‘must stand up to Saudi Arabia’, says shadow chancellor

Britain must stand up to Saudi Arabia after a journalist was allegedly murdered in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said.

Labour’s Mr McDonnell told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘If the information that’s coming out is true, it is absolutely appalling. It’s unacceptable.

‘We, along with other nations now, should stand up to the Saudi government and make sure they know it is unacceptable, and if this means taking action in some form, we should take those actions.

‘I’ve been on a number of demonstrations when the Saudi regime have sent representatives here because of human rights abuses and if this is another example of that, we’ve got to be much firmer.’

Prince Mohammed said in an interview published by Bloomberg on Friday that the journalist had left the consulate and Turkish authorities could search the building, which is Saudi sovereign territory.

‘We are ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises,’ he said. ‘We have nothing to hide.’

Turkey’s foreign ministry on Wednesday summoned Saudi Arabia’s ambassador over the issue.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists demanded Riyadh give ‘a full and credible account’ of what happened to Khashoggi inside the consulate.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Twitter that if reports of his death were confirmed, ‘this would constitute a horrific, utterly deplorable, and absolutely unacceptable assault on press freedom’.

OSCE media freedom representative Harlem Desir said on Twitter that he was ‘shocked’ by the claims.

‘If confirmed, that’s an unprecedented crime against journalists. I trust Turkey authorities will unveil details. Those responsible for this horrific crime must face justice,’ Desir added.

A spokesperson for the US State Department said it could not confirm the reports but was ‘closely following the situation’.

The British Foreign Office said in a statement it was ‘working urgently’ to verify the ‘extremely serious’ allegations.

Turkish police believe Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul

Ankara announced Saturday it had opened an official probe into Khashoggi’s disappearance

Khashoggi fled from Saudi Arabia in September 2017, months after Prince Mohammed was appointed heir to the throne, amid a campaign that saw dozens of dissidents arrested including intellectuals and Islamic preachers.

The journalist said he had been banned from writing in the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper, owned by Saudi prince Khaled bin Sultan al-Saud, over his defence of the Muslim Brotherhood which Riyadh has blacklisted as a terrorist organisation.

He has also criticised Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen, where Riyadh leads a military coalition fighting alongside the government in its war with Iran-backed rebels.

Saudi Arabia, which ranks 169th out of 180 on RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, has launched a modernisation campaign since Prince Mohammed’s appointment as heir to the throne.

The ultra-conservative kingdom in June lifted a ban on women driving.

But it has drawn heavy criticism for its handling of dissent.

Khashoggi’s criticism of Prince Mohammed’s policies have appeared in both the Arab and Western press.

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