Middle EastWorld

Saudi journalist disappearance

ISTANBUL: Turkish forensic and investigation officers arrive at Saudi Arabia’s Consul General Mohammad Al-Otaibi’s residence yesterday in Istanbul. —AFP

ANKARA: Here is a timeline of events in the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident who has not seen since he entered the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Goes inside
At 1:14 pm on October 2, Khashoggi is recorded entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a surveillance camera. The image is published by the Washington Post. He was at the consulate to receive an official document for his upcoming marriage. His fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, waits outside.

Alarm raised
On October 3 the Washington Post, for whom Khashoggi writes opinion pieces, raises the alarm, saying he has not been seen since he entered the consulate. His fiancee camps out near barricades in front of the consulate hoping for news. Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tells a news conference: “According to information we have this individual… is still at the consulate as of now”. The US State Department says it is investigating.

Saudi denial
On October 4, after an initial period of silence, Riyadh says Khashoggi disappeared “after he left the consulate building”. The Saudi ambassador is summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry. On October 5 Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tells Bloomberg that Khashoggi is not inside the consulate and “we are ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises,” which is Saudi sovereign territory.

Murdered in consulate?
On October 6 a government source says Turkish police believe Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate. “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,” the source says. Riyadh calls the claim “baseless”. On October 7 Turkey seeks permission to search the consulate.

Pressure on Riyadh
On October 8 Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asks Riyadh to “prove” that Khashoggi left its consulate. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls for a “thorough” and “transparent” probe by Washington’s ally Saudi Arabia.

Search granted
On October 9 Saudi Arabia agrees to let Turkish authorities search the consulate. Local media report on the possibility that Khashoggi was kidnapped and taken to Saudi Arabia. English-language state broadcaster TRT World says Turkish officials believe the Saudis may have taken the consulate’s CCTV footage with them when they returned to the kingdom.

CCTV footage released by Turkish TV shows a van entering the consulate on October 2, before going to the nearby consul’s residence. The Washington Post, citing US intelligence intercepts, says the Saudi crown prince ordered an operation to trap Khashoggi. The US State Department says it had not been tipped off about such an operation. US President Donald Trump calls for explanations from Saudi Arabia, saying he has talked “at the highest levels” to partners in Riyadh. He says he has been in contact with Khashoggi’s fiancee, who has asked for his help.

Business backlash
On October 12 British entrepreneur Richard Branson suspends two directorships linked to tourism projects in Saudi Arabia. Several prestigious partners cancel their planned attendance at the October 23-25 Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, a lavish conference dubbed the “Davos in the Desert”. On October 15 and 16 Turkish police investigators and prosecutors conduct an overnight search of the consulate, taking away samples, including soil from the garden.

Pompeo in Riyadh
On October 15, Trump says he received a strong denial from King Salman of any involvement in the disappearance and that “rogue killers” could be involved. Visiting Riyadh, Pompeo says Saudi Arabia promised to ensure a thorough probe from which no one will be exempt. Trump says innocence must be presumed.

New clues
On October 17 Turkish pro-government daily Yeni Safak reports that Khashoggi was tortured before being decapitated inside the consulate, saying it had heard audio recordings of the incident. The New York Times says a suspect identified by Turkey in the disappearance was in Crown Prince Mohammed’s inner circle. Three other suspects are linked to his security detail. In Ankara Pompeo meets Erdogan and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.- AFP

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