Media, Activists Gather Outside Saudi Consulate For Missing Journalist
Hundreds of reporters from around the world and a crowd of activists, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman, waited on Monday outside the Saudi consulate general in Istanbul, where Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi went missing on October 2.
Saudi citizen Khashoggi reportedly entered the consulate on Tuesday in order to obtain some documents for his upcoming wedding and he was never heard from afterwards. Turkish police concluded in its preliminary investigation that the journalist, an outspoken critic of the Saudi government, was murdered while inside the consulate. Although Saudi officials denied the allegation, they were unable to provide evidence showing Khashoggi walked out of the building.
TV stations from both Western and Arabic countries have been broadcasting live from outside the Saudi consulate, which is located in the Levent district of Istanbul, since early Monday morning.
A number of non-governmental organizations delivered statements to the press, holding up photographs of Khashoggi, called for help from Turkey and the international community for an effective probe into the incident. Turkish Mazlum-Der (The Association for Human Rights and Solidarity for the Oppressed) and Ayman Nour, the head of Egyptian political party Ghad El-Thawra Party, were among the protesters.
Another prominent figure attending the demonstrations outside the consulate was Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni journalist and politician, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 after becoming the public face of the Yemeni uprising that started as part of the Arab Spring. Karman, holding a picture of Khashoggi in her hands, spoke to the media at the site.
Turkish media also reported on Monday that Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.
The request was made after the foreign ministry summoned the Saudi ambassador for a second time over the disappearance of Khashoggi, NTV broadcaster said.
A Turkish diplomatic source confirmed the Saudi envoy was “invited” to the ministry on Sunday in Ankara and was met by deputy foreign minister Sedat Onal.
“The ambassador was told that we expected full cooperation during the investigation,” the source said.
The ambassador was first summoned to the foreign ministry on Wednesday.
‘Black Van’ Suspected of Carrying the Body
In the meantime, Turkish pro-government daily Sabah reported that Turkish security forces have focused their suspicion on a black van with dark tinted windows and a green diplomatic license plate that might have carried the body of Khashoggi out of the consulate.
According to Sabah, a crisis desk created by a team consisting of members of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and Istanbul police have been working on the Khashoggi case. The team is trying to figure out whether the Saudi journalist was being followed by anyone while he entered the consulate at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday and whether his body was moved out of the building between 1:00 p.m. and 4:20 p.m.
The team determined that six vehicles left the consulate two hours after Khashoggi entered the building and all of them belong to the Saudi consulate. Three of the vehicles reportedly went to the right, while the other three went to the left. The van in question, on the other hand, waited in front of the building, along with another car, for four hours and then moved towards the D-100 highway.
Police have been looking through footage from traffic cameras in order to determine the routes of the vehicles and to identify the individuals in them. It is forbidden for the Turkish police to search the cars since they belong to the Saudi consulate.
Khashoggi, 59, went to the consulate to obtain official documents ahead of his marriage to his Turkish fiancee. Turkish police said he never left the building.
However, Riyadh insisted Khashoggi left the consulate while a Turkish government source at the weekend said they believe he was killed.
The consulate on Sunday rejected the claims that the journalist was killed there as “baseless” in a post on Twitter.
“We hope to have results very quickly,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “I am waiting, with high hopes.”
Khashoggi had been critical of some of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s policies and Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen.
In his first comments over the disappearance, Turkish President Erdogan on Sunday said he was awaiting the results of an investigation.