Accusations fly in case of missing journalist

  • People hold signs during a protest about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Wednesday at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C. AP

Published: 10/11/2018 4:21:46 PM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chided Saudi Arabia on Thursday for its refusal to publicly account for the whereabouts of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying the Saudi government possesses “advanced” surveillance equipment that would have recorded Khashoggi’s movements in and around the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, according to a report published in Turkey’s daily Sabah newspaper.

“Is it possible not to have camera systems at the consulate or an embassy? Is it possible that camera systems didn’t exist at the Saudi Consulate, where the incident took place?” Erdogan said to reporters accompanying him on a trip to Hungary, according to Sabah.

The Saudis could “catch a bird or a mosquito with the advanced systems they have,” Erdogan added.

His comments were the latest sign of the mounting international pressure on the Saudi leadership to reveal the whereabouts of Khashoggi, who vanished after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Saudi officials have asserted that the dissident Saudi journalist left the consulate, unharmed, but have provided no evidence for that claim.

Turkey has released no official findings into Khashoggi’s disappearance, but people familiar with the Turkish investigation have said it concludes that he was killed inside the consulate soon after he entered. After he was killed, his was body dismembered to conceal the murder, they said the probe found.

Human rights groups and press freedom advocates have demanded that Saudi Arabia reveal where Khashoggi is. That outcry, in turn, has put pressure on the Trump administration and Britain, two of Saudi Arabia’s most committed Western allies, to press their Saudi counterparts for answers.

In a sign of the backlash, the New York Times said Wednesday that it was pulling its sponsorship of an investment conference scheduled for later this month in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. On Thursday, a London-based activist group, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, urged the Natural History Museum in London to cancel an evening reception hosted by the Saudi Embassy.

Adding to the pressure, a report published Thursday in the Washington Post said that U.S. officials have collected intelligence indicating that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, authorized an operation to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia and detain him. U.S. officials said that intelligence intercepts had captured discussions among Saudi officials about such a plan.

Turkish officials Wednesday accused Saudi Arabia of not cooperating with Turkey’s investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance, in particular not following up on a Turkish request to enter the consulate. Mohammed, the Saudi crown prince, had previously said the Turkish government could search the premises.

“The Saudis now seem to delay,” one senior Turkish official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation. “They say: ‘You can’t make a proper investigation here. You just come here for a cup of tea and we’ll show you around.’ ”

“The Saudis are not cooperative in this investigation,” another Turkish official said. “We don’t have the access we need to the consulate or to the consul’s house.”

Under the Vienna Convention, a host country cannot enter the grounds of a foreign diplomatic mission without permission.

The senior Turkish official said Turkish authorities have “strong indications” that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate. They also hope to search the Saudi consul general’s residence, 500 yards away. Several vehicles, including a black Mercedes-Benz Vito van, headed from the consulate to the residence two hours after Khashoggi entered the diplomatic facility, according to a video obtained by the Washington Post on Wednesday that purported to lay out the movements of the 15-member team of Saudi nationals that Turkish investigators say play a role in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

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