A Saudi Arabian journalist was murdered in an assassination operation at the country’s Istanbul consulate, investigators believe.
Jamal Khashoggi, who contributed to the Washington Post, has lived in self-imposed exile in the US for the last year.
He vanished on Tuesday while on a visit to the Saudi consulate. Turkish investigators believe he died in a ‘preplanned murder’.
People hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (Picture: Getty)Saudi authorities dismissed the allegation as ‘baseless’.
‘If the reports of Jamal’s murder are true, it is a monstrous and unfathomable act,’ the Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said in a statement.
‘Jamal was – or, as we hope, is – a committed, courageous journalist. He writes out of a sense of love for his country and deep faith in human dignity and freedom.’
A man looks at the door of the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul (Picture: Getty)His disappearance has threatened to upend already-fraught relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
It also raises new questions about the kingdom and the actions of its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Khashoggi wrote critically about in his columns.
‘The initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Mr. Khashoggi has been killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul,’ a Turkish official said. ‘We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate.’
Jamal Khashoggi was a prominent critic of Saudi Arabia (Picture: Getty)Khashoggi, 59, went missing while on a visit to the consulate in Istanbul for paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancee.
The consulate insists the writer left its premises, contradicting Turkish officials.
‘Jamal is not dead! I don’t believe he’s been killed!’ his fiancee Hatice wrote on Twitter late on Saturday night.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency carried a statement from the Istanbul Consulate that ‘strongly denounced these baseless allegations, and expressed his doubt that they came from Turkish officials that are informed of the investigation or are authorised to comment on the issue.’
It said Saudi Arabia sent a team of investigators to help look into the case.
A protest in front of Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on October 5 (Picture: Reuters)Khashoggi is a longtime Saudi journalist, foreign correspondent, editor and columnist whose work has been controversial in the past in the ultraconservative Sunni kingdom.
As a contributor to the Post, Khashoggi has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticising its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving.
US Sen. Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, expressed shock over the news.
‘If this is true – that the Saudis lured a U.S. resident into their consulate and murdered him – it should represent a fundamental break in our relationship with Saudi Arabia,’ Murphy wrote on Twitter.
Press freedom groups likewise have decried Khashoggi’s disappearance.
‘If Khashoggi was indeed murdered inside a diplomatic facility, it is an act of terror that echoes Russian and Chinese tactics of extraterritorial, extrajudicial attacks on dissidents, intended to intimidate any who would speak out against the Saudi government, no matter where they may be, and giving the lie to official narratives of `reform’ in Saudi Arabia,’ said Summer Lopez, PEN America’s senior director of free expression programs.
‘If Saudi authorities wish to counter these claims, they must produce Khashoggi immediately. If the killing is confirmed, those responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable,’ she added.
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