Europe

The Jamal Khashoggi story so far

On 2 October, Jamal Khashoggi, a well-known journalist and critic of the Saudi government, walked into the country’s consulate in Istanbul. He has not been seen since.

Turkish officials believe he was murdered by a team of Saudi agents inside the building and say they have evidence, including gruesome audio recordings, to back this up.

After initial denials and claims that he had left the consulate shortly after arriving, Saudi Arabia has now admitted the journalist is dead.

The kingdom says Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue operation” that the leadership had not been aware of.

The steady stream of disturbing allegations, along with the complex diplomatic situation, means that it can be difficult to keep track of the full story.

So here is what we know about the case.

Who was Jamal Khashoggi?

As a prominent journalist, he covered major stories including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of Osama Bin Laden for various Saudi news organisations.

For decades, he was close to the Saudi royal family and also served as an adviser to the government.

But he fell out of favour and went into self-imposed exile in the US last year. From there, he wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he criticised the policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In his first column for the newspaper, Khashoggi said he feared being arrested in an apparent crackdown on dissent overseen by the prince since he became first in line to succeed his father King Salman.

“The people being arrested are not even being dissidents, they just have an independent mind,” he told the BBC’s Newshour programme three days before he disappeared.

Why was he at the consulate?

He first visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 28 September to obtain a document certifying that he had divorced his ex-wife, so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée.

But he was told he would have to return and arranged to come back on 2 October.

“He did not believe that something bad could happen on Turkish soil,” his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, wrote in the Washington Post.

“Jamal was hardly concerned ahead of his second visit.”

He was seen on CCTV arriving at 13:14 local time for his appointment, which was scheduled for 13:30.

He reportedly told friends that he had been treated “very warmly” on his first visit and reassured them that he would not face any problems.

Despite this, he gave Ms Cengiz two mobile phones and told her to call an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he did not come back out.

She ultimately waited for more than 10 hours outside the consulate and returned the following morning when Khashoggi had still not reappeared.

What does Saudi Arabia say?

For more than two weeks Saudi Arabia consistently denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate.

Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg News that the journalist had left the consulate “after a few minutes or one hour”.

“We have nothing to hide,” he added.

Prince Mohammed’s brother and the Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Khaled bin Salman, claimed all reports about his disappearance or death were “completely false and baseless”.

But in the early hours of 20 October, state television reported the journalist had in fact died in the consulate after a fight.

It finally said that Khashoggi had been murdered in a “rogue operation” and vowed to punish “those responsible”.

A Saudi official told Reuters news agency that Khashoggi had died in a chokehold after resisting attempts to return him to Saudi Arabia. His body was then rolled in a rug and given to a local “co-operator” to be disposed of. A Saudi operative then reportedly donned his clothes and left the premises.

The authorities announced the arrest of 18 Saudi nationals and dismissal of two senior officials – deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to Prince Mohammed.

Saudi King Salman also ordered the formation of a ministerial committee, headed by the crown prince, to restructure the intelligence services in the wake of the initial inquiry.

Two days later, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir described the killing as “murder”, telling Fox News “a tremendous mistake” had been made. He denied that the crown prince had ordered the killing.

Then, on 25 October, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor was quoted in state media as saying Khashoggi’s murder was “premeditated”.

The prosecutor’s account came after investigations by a joint Saudi-Turkish task force, broadcaster al-Ekhbariya said.

On the 2 November, Prince Mohammed reportedly told the US he considered Khashoggi to be a dangerous Islamist in a phone call with the White House after he disappeared.

Saudi Arabia has denied the claims in the US media.

What does Turkey say happened to him?

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says there is evidence that the “savage” killing was planned days in advance.

He says three teams of 15 Saudi nationals arrived in Istanbul before the murder and that the group had removed the security cameras and surveillance footage from the consulate building prior to Khashoggi’s arrival.

On 31 October, Turkey gave its first official statement on how it believes Khashoggi was killed, saying he was immediately strangled and his body was dismembered.

Unnamed Turkish officials previously told the media he had been tortured first.

The reports said Turkey had audio and video recordings of the killing, without saying how they had been obtained. President Erdogan has not mentioned them.

Turkey’s pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak quotes sources as saying that the Saudi consul general can be heard on one tape warning the alleged agents: “Do this outside. You’re going to get me in trouble.”

“Shut up if you want to live when you return to [Saudi] Arabia,” a person can reportedly be heard telling the diplomat on another tape.

On 10 November, Mr Erdogan said Turkey had given the recordings to Saudi Arabia, the US, the UK, Germany and France.

“They listened to the conversations which took place here, they know”, he said.

No country has admitted this so far.

Who are the alleged Saudi agents?

One of the men, Maher Mutreb, served as a colonel in Saudi intelligence and was based at the country’s embassy in London, the BBC understands.

Four of the men have links to the Saudi crown prince and another is a senior figure in the country’s interior ministry, reports say.

Turkish officials believe the men are Saudi officials and intelligence officers, an allegation that appears to be supported by open-source information that is freely available.

They say the group brought a bone saw into the country and that one of its members was a doctor who specialised in post-mortems.

Nine of the agents reportedly arrived on a private jet from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, at about 03:15 on the day Khashoggi visited the consulate.

The rest of the suspected agents are reported to have arrived later that day on a second private jet or on commercial flights. The group then checked into two hotels near the consulate building.

CCTV footage broadcast by Turkish TV appears to show groups of Saudi men entering the country via Istanbul airport and then checking into the hotels.

It also shows vehicles driving up to the consulate an hour before Khashoggi’s visit, including black vans thought to be central to inquiries.

One of the vans is reported to have taken some of the men from the consulate to the nearby residence of the Saudi consul about two hours after Khashoggi’s arrival.

The group then left the country on the two private jets that flew to Riyadh via Cairo and Dubai, according to investigators.

How did 2 October unfold?

This is the timeline of events, according to Turkish media.

03:28: The first private jet carrying suspected Saudi agents arrives at Istanbul airport.

05:05: The group is seen checking into two hotels near the Saudi consulate building.

12:13: Several diplomatic vehicles are filmed arriving at the consulate, allegedly carrying some of the Saudi agents.

13:14: Khashoggi enters the building.

15:08: Vehicles leave the consulate and are filmed arriving at the nearby Saudi consul’s residence.

17:15: A second private jet carrying a number of suspected Saudi officials lands in Istanbul.

17:33: Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, is seen on CCTV waiting outside the consulate.

18:20: One of the private jets departs from Istanbul airport. The other plane leaves at 21:00.

How is the Turkish investigation progressing?

Turkish police were allowed to enter the Saudi consulate on 15 October, shortly after Saudi officials and a group of cleaners were seen entering the building.

Turkish police have now searched the consulate and the nearby Saudi consul’s residence, and have taken samples away for DNA testing.

The police have also searched the nearby Belgrad forest and farmland in Yalova because it is believed at least two vehicles from the Saudi consulate headed in that direction on the day of the suspected killing.

More than a dozen Turkish nationals employed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, including receptionists, technicians, accountants and a driver, have been questioned by prosecutors.

King Salman and President Erdogan have agreed to exchange information and co-operate in the investigation.

But there is still no sign of the body.

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