October 7, 2018 – ISTANBUL (AP) — A friend of a prominent Saudi journalist who went missing in Istanbul said Sunday that officials told him to “make your funeral preparations” as the Washington Post contributor “was killed” at the Saudi Consulate.
A Turkish official separately told The Associated Press that authorities believe Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi Consulate, while another said it was a “high probability.”
Saudi officials have denied allegations that Khashoggi was killed at the consulate, calling them “baseless.”
The growing dispute over his fate threatens relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and raises new questions about the kingdom and the actions of its assertive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Khashoggi wrote critically about in his columns.
Turan Kislakci, a friend of Khashoggi and the head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, spoke to the AP on Sunday outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. He said he believes Turkish officials soon will announce the findings of their investigation.
“What was explained to us is this: He was killed, make your funeral preparations,” Kislakci said. “We called a few other places, these are lower officials, but they said: ‘We have evidence he was killed in a barbaric way, we will announce it tomorrow or the day after.'”
Before entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Jamal Khashoggi told his fiancée, who was not allowed to enter with him, to call his friend Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he did not return https://t.co/pLKDVjXZVa
— Mohamed Yehia (@yeh1a) October 7, 2018
Kislakci also alleged, based on conversations with officials he did not name, that Khashoggi was made to “faint,” then was dismembered.
When was he last seen?
Jamal Khashoggi went to the consulate on Tuesday to obtain a document certifying he had divorced his ex-wife, so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.
Ms Cengiz said she waited outside for 11 hours, but he did not come out.
A Turkish official told the AP late Saturday that an “initial assessment” by police concluded Khashoggi had been killed at the consulate. On Sunday, another official assessed as “high probability” that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate and his body was taken away.
The Post reported on the police’s theory late Saturday, citing two anonymous sources.
“If the reports of Jamal’s murder are true, it is a monstrous and unfathomable act,” the Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said in a statement. “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.”
— Hatice Cengiz / خديجة (@mercan_resifi) October 6, 2018
What has Turkey said?
Turkish officials said Mr Khashoggi was killed on the premises and his body was then removed.
Investigators said a 15-person team arrived at the consulate on Tuesday, returning to Riyadh the same day.
The head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, Turan Kislakci, told the New York Times that Turkish police officers providing security for the consulate had checked their security cameras and did not see the journalist leave on foot.
But he added that diplomatic cars had been seen moving in and out.
Mr Erdogan was more circumspect, saying on Sunday he remained “positive” and would await the results of an investigation as Turkish authorities continue to look at camera footage and airport arrivals and departures.
What have the Saudis said?
Saudi Arabia said the allegations were baseless. It has allowed reporters into the consulate to show Mr Khashoggi is not there.
— NDTV (@ndtv) October 7, 2018
On Wednesday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg News that Turkish authorities were welcome to search the building because “we have nothing to hide”.
The prince said the Saudis were “very keen to know what happened to him”, saying his understanding was that Mr Khashoggi left “after a few minutes or one hour”.
Who is Jamal Khashoggi?
He is a high-profile critic of the crown prince. Mr Khashoggi, 59, has more than 1.6 million Twitter followers and has written for the Washington Post opinion section.
The crown prince has unveiled reforms praised by the West while carrying out an apparent crackdown on dissent. Human and women’s rights activists, intellectuals and clerics have been arrested – meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is waging a war in Yemen that has triggered a humanitarian crisis.
A former editor of the al-Watan newspaper and a short-lived Saudi TV news channel, Mr Khashoggi was for years seen as close to the Saudi royal family. He served as an adviser to senior Saudi officials.
After several of his friends were arrested, his column was canceled by the al-Hayat newspaper and he was allegedly warned to stop tweeting, Mr Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia for the US, from where he wrote opinion pieces for the Washington Post and continued to appear on Arab and Western TV channels.
“I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice,” he wrote in September 2017. “To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot.”
The Washington Post on Friday blanked out his column in support.