By Prarthana Mitra
Turkish investigators are pulling out all stops in probing into the mysterious disappearance and death of Saudi-origin US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who died in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. The Turkish government commented on the matter for the first time this week, saying, that the entire operation was savagely planned, and perhaps even conducted via Skype by Saud al-Qahtani, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s primary henchman. His direct involvement in the matter would make it harder for the Saudi administration to distance Salman from the operation.
Amidst this ruckus, Khashoggi’s body, presumably mutilated, dismembered and scattered for disposal, remains missing. The same goes for his belongings, at least until Wednesday, when a team of Turkish detectives reportedly searched a vehicle suspected to carry his belongings. Turkish state media said that investigators have found three suitcases, a laptop computer and clothing inside a car belonging to the Saudi consulate, stowed away in an underground garage.
This comes within days that street surveillance cameras revealed a Saudi decoy, later identified as Mustafa al Madani, roaming the streets of Turkey dressed as Khashoggi. Rumoured to be one of the hit squad, the man was seen leaving the consulate in the journalist’s clothes 90 minutes after the premeditated murder, which allegedly took place within minutes of Khashoggi’s entrance.
What we know so far
A vocal critic of Riyadh’s human rights violations and columnist for the Washington Post, Khashoggi moved to the US last year after facing strong criticism from the government and was last seen entering the consulate in Istanbul on October 2, where he had gone to fetch documents.
Contradictory accounts from Ankara and Riyadh about what went on inside the consulate have since surfaced. While Turkish officials have claimed to be in possession of recordings capturing Khashoggi’s gruesome torture and death by a Saudi security team, a probe conducted by Saudi Arabia under global pressure asserted that the journalist’s death was a result of a fist-fight, acknowledging that he died within the consulate’s premises.
A spokesperson of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party Omer Celik told reporters in Ankara, “[…]we are faced with a situation where there has been a lot of effort to whitewash this,” adding that even though it is a complicated murder, the facts and evidence don’t leave any room for speculation. He also dismissed the prospect of any settlement or bargain between the long-standing rival nations.
How has Saudi Arabia responded?
Saudi Arabia, in the meantime, has arrested 18 members of the aforementioned security team and fired two top officials. On Tuesday, the prince met with the slain journalist’s son Salah Khashoggi to express his condolences in public view – a chilling reminder of the “smothering blanket of Saudi lies.” Abetted by the US which was initially reluctant to turn up the pressure on their key ally in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia is now faced with possible sanctions and visa restrictions from the west. EU nations have also expressed their outrage against this heinous attack on free speech.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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