A Turkish newspaper has published the names and photos of 15 Saudis, including several officials, who are suspected of having assassinated Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist, in Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul before leaving Turkish soil.
Daily Sabah released on Tuesday the identities of the Saudi operatives, who had, according to the report, arrived from Riyadh to Istanbul on two private jets and entered the Saudi mission on October 2 as Khashoggi entered the building.
The Saudis had checked in at two international hotels close to the consulate before driving to the consulate. They left Turkey that very same evening.
The suspects are all wanted by Turkish authorities for questioning in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance.
A source close to the investigation into the case told the Middle East Eye news portal that three of the suspects were members of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s elite close protection unit.
One of the Saudis, he added, is the head of the forensic department at the Saudi General Security.
Saudi squad ‘awaiting Khashoggi’ at consulate
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that the 15-member Saudi team had lain in wait for Khashoggi the day he entered the consulate but never came out.
The American daily obtained a photograph taken from a Turkish police closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera outside the residence of the Saudi consul general, Mohammed al-Otaibi, located less than 500 meters from the consulate.
It shows a Mercedes Vito van with tinted windows, which is believed to have transported some of the Saudi suspects from the consulate to Otaibi’s residence about two hours after Khashoggi had entered the diplomatic mission.
According to flight tracking records and the people familiar with the investigation, the Saudi squad had departed from Istanbul on planes bound for Cairo and Dubai and later for Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia claims that Khashoggi had left the consulate after completing paperwork for his wedding to his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, but Ankara says Riyadh must prove the claim.
A CCTV camera recorded the moment Khashoggi entered the consulate but not his exit.
On Tuesday, a still image emerged of Khashoggi striding towards the mission. A black van that was allegedly used to smuggle him or his body away was also seen parked next to the consulate’s front door.
CCTV disappears from consulate
Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that security camera footage had been removed from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and the Turkish staff had been abruptly told to take a holiday on the day Khashoggi vanished.
Turkish investigators believe the CCTV footage from inside the consulate was onboard the two corporate jets that took the Saudi suspects back to Riyadh.
A reporter with the Yeni Safak daily said on Wednesday that Turkey’s National Security Service had footage showing Khashoggi’s entrance into the Saudi consulate and his murder.
These films , he added, would be released by the Anadolu news agency.
Khashoggi’s fiancée urges release of CCTV footage
In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a contributing writer, Cengiz called on Saudi Arabia to release CCTV footage from the consulate.
Khashoggi’s fiancée also expressed confidence in “the abilities of Turkish government officials” and asked US President Donald Trump to help uncover what had happened to the Riyadh critic whom she said had “been fighting for his principles.”
“I also urge Saudi Arabia, especially King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to show the same level of sensitivity and release CCTV footage from the consulate,” she wrote.
Although Khashoggi knew that his opinions had angered certain people, he entered the consulate “without doubting he would be safe there,” Cengiz added, noting that after three hours of waiting outside the mission, “fear and concern” overcame her.
“He was, however, increasingly worried about an unprecedented wave of arrests in his country. Yet Jamal did not think the Saudis could force him to stay at the consulate in Turkey, even if they wanted to arrest him,” she added. “Although my hope slowly fades away each passing day, I remain confident that Jamal is still alive.”
UK demands ‘urgent answers’
On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt summoned the Saudi ambassador and demanded “urgent answers” about the disappearance of the journalist.
Later, Hunt phoned Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, to warn the Riyadh regime over the disappearance.
Khashoggi, a former Saudi government advisor, had fled Saudi Arabia last September and had been living in self-imposed exile in the United States, where he had applied for citizenship.
He had been critical of bin Salman, accusing the heir to the Saudi throne of introducing a new era of “fear, intimidation, arrests and public shaming.”