A joint Turkish-Saudi team of inspectors searched the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing nearly two weeks ago. Investigators spent more than eight hours inside the premises.
Turkish investigators completed a search of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday, for the first time since journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared. The team arrived at the consulate in an unmarked police car dressed in overalls and gloves and made no comments to reporters gathered outside as they entered the building.
Such an extraordinary search of a diplomatic post — considered foreign soil under international law — perhaps represents new cooperation between Turkey and its fellow Sunni Muslim nation, Saudi Arabia.
The search lasted more than eight hours and investigators removed samples from the building, including soil from the consulate garden and a metal door, one official said.
Khashoggi, who has been harshly critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his reform policies, was last seen visiting the Saudi consulate two weeks ago to get documents he needed to get married.
Turkish officials said they fear a Saudi hit team killed and dismembered Khashoggi, allegations the Saudi kingdom has dismissed as "baseless," however, it has not presented evidence of the journalist leaving the consulate.
It is not clear what kind of search the officials are conducting, or whether it will include a forensic examination, given that it has been almost two weeks since the reporter vanished.
A team of cleaners were reported to have entered the consulate on Monday lunchtime — "causing a minor flurry of excitement," according to one reporter — hours before the search team showed up.
US President Donald Trump, under growing pressure to take action on the suspected murder, suggested that "rogue killers" could be behind Khashoggi's disappearance. Trump's comments followed a phone call with King Salman in which Trump said he strongly denied any knowledge of what happened to the journalist.
"The king firmly denied any knowledge of it," Trump told reporters, echoing earlier comments he made on Twitter. "I mean, who knows? We're going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial." Meanwhile, Trump dispatched the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to Riyadh to meet King Samlan.
Trump paid his first foreign visit as president to Saudi Arabia last year, praised its new young ruler, the king's son Prince Mohammed, and boasted of striking a deal to sell $110 billion (€95 billion) of US weapons to the kingdom, something the president said he doesn’t want to halt over the missing reporter, because it would hurt the US economy.
"If they don’t buy it from us, they’re going to buy it from Russia or they’re going to buy it from China," he said. "Think of that, $110 billion. All they’re going to do is give it to other countries, and I think that would be very foolish."
In columns published by The Washington Post, 59-year-old Jamal Khashoggi has spoken out against Saudi Arabia's recent diplomatic spat with Canada, the Saudi-led intervention in the Yemen conflict, and its arrest of women's rights activists after the lifting of a driving ban for women. Khashoggi has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 2017 fearing arrest for his critical views.
Several countries, including Germany, say they want to take action if the kingdom critic was killed. The Saudi government vowed to hit back should any punitive measures be imposed.
kw/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)