Turkish authorities have claimed a prominent Saudi journalist who has not been seen since he entered Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul five days ago was killed inside the building.
An official, speaking to Reuters news agency, said Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a premeditated murder and his body removed from the consulate.
They said: “The initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Mr Khashoggi has been killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul.
“We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate.”
A senior police source told online news website Middle East Eye the journalist had been “brutally murdered, killed and cut into pieces”.
“Everything was videotaped to prove the mission had been accomplished and the tape was taken out of the country,” they said.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Mr Khashoggi as a “journalist and a friend”, and said he was taking a personal interest in the case.
“God willing we will not be faced with the situation we do not desire,” he said.
The Saudi consulate and Istanbul’s airports are being closely monitored, he added.
Saudi authorities rejected the allegations as “baseless” and said a team of investigators had been sent to the Turkish city to help look into the case.
A fierce critic of Saudi policies, the royal family and its power, Mr Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile in Washington for the last year, fearing retribution for his views.
The 59-year-old former government adviser visited the consulate on Tuesday to obtain paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, who was reportedly waiting outside the building for him – but he never emerged.
Mr Khashoggi reportedly left his phone with her – plus instructions to call a member of Turkey’s governing party if he failed to return.
He has not been seen or heard from since.
His fiancee wrote on Twitter she “did not believe he has been killed”.
Turkish and Saudi officials have offered conflicting accounts of his disappearance, with Ankara saying there was no evidence he had left the consulate, but Riyadh claiming he exited the premises the same day.
“If the reports of Jamal’s murder are true, it is a monstrous and unfathomable act,” said Fred Hiatt, director of The Washington Post’s editorial page, for which Mr Khashoggi was a contributor.
“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.”
In its report of the journalist’s disappearance, the paper quoted an anonymous official who said investigators believed a 15-strong team “came from Saudi Arabia” to carry out “a pre-planned murder”.
Press freedom campaigners also condemned the journalist’s disappearance.
“If Khashoggi was indeed murdered inside a diplomatic facility, it is an act of terror that echoes Russian and Chinese tactics of extraterritorial, extrajudicial attacks on dissidents, intended to intimidate any who would speak out against the Saudi government, no matter where they may be, and giving the lie to official narratives of ‘reform’ in Saudi Arabia,” said Summer Lopez, of PEN America.
“If Saudi authorities wish to counter these claims, they must produce Khashoggi immediately. If the killing is confirmed, those responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable,” she added.
From – SkyNews