Jamal Khashoggi had weighed the risks before he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last Tuesday. He had sought assurances from friends, given a number for his fiancee to call if he failed to reappear – and even received an overture to return to Riyadh from Mohammed bin Salman himself.
Convinced that he faced no official threat from the powerful crown prince, and feeling pressure from his future father-in-law to get the marriage process rolling, Khashoggi believed the odds were with him.
Five days later, the move by the kingdom’s highest-profile dissenter to start a new life may have instead led to his death. Khashoggi has not been heard from since. And with each passing day, Turkish authorities are more convinced that he will never be seen again, his life ended by Saudi agents who had lain in wait, then carried out an act of state-sanctioned murder in the heart of Istanbul.
By Sunday night, authorities in Turkey had pieced together a case against Saudi agents that has reverberated through Ankara and Riyadh, placing two regional juggernauts on a diplomatic collision course and underscoring – yet again – the high price of dissent in an era of fast-ebbing freedoms.
The allegations against Riyadh are breathtaking. Khashoggi, say Turkish officials, was tortured, then killed and his body smuggled out of the consulate, all under the nose of local agencies. Initially stunned into silence, or curbed by their political masters, officials had initially remained mute as questions about Khashoggi’s disappearance mounted. But at midnight on Saturday, that changed, when a government press officer circulated a news report quoting two Turkish sources who had in turn claimed that Khashoggi was likely dead.
Ever since, officials from across the country’s executive and security apparatus have drip-fed information from a still-ongoing investigation. Sources inside the consulate have helped shape understandings, as have hundreds of hours of security and flight logs detailing the comings and goings of a 15-person Saudi security delegation and – according to an ally of Khashoggi – the route taken by a convoy that left the consulate on Tuesday, hours after he had walked through the gate.
“They followed the cars, and they know what happened,” said Turan Kışlakçı, the head of the Turkish Arab Media Association, and a friend of Khashoggi. “We have all the details, and he was killed.” [Continue reading…]