Khashoggi drama: All the latest updates
Iran Press TV
Thu Oct 18, 2018 08:15AM
Turkish police and forensic investigators have ended their search of the Saudi consul general's residence in Istanbul, with reports saying they have collected "samples" which could be "convincing in terms of evidence" in the case of missing dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A Reuters witness said that the investigators had left the residence of Mohammed al-Otaibi early on Thursday after an almost nine-hour search at the building. The council general had earlier flown from Turkey back to Saudi Arabia.
Al Jazeera cited sources in the Turkish prosecutor's office as saying that "samples" were recovered from the scene.
"Whether these were samples of DNA or blood samples is unclear. Apparently, according to sources, these were quite convincing in terms of evidence," Al Jazeera's correspondent reported from outside the consul's home in Istanbul.
The report said the garage and garden had also been searched, and that Turkish investigators were seen leaving the building with boxes and bags.
"A number of vans have left the scene. They've been digging the garden in the rear and also have been upstairs doing intensive forensic work," said Al Jazeera.
The investigators also searched the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for a second time as part of a probe into the case of Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Riyadh regime who vanished at the mission on October 2.
Footage showed the investigators leaving the mission with bags and boxes.
They used bright lights to illuminate the consulate's garden and took away bags of evidence, including soil and DNA samples for further examination.
Ankara says it has evidence Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate by Saudi operatives. Riyadh, however, denies any involvement.
The Saudi consul general is a suspect in Khashoggi's disappearance, which is being treated as a murder case.
According to contents of audio recordings of Khashoggi's suspected murder reported by media, Otaibi was present on the crime scene. The recordings themselves have not yet been released.
The New York Times, citing audio recordings from within the mission, reported that a team of 15 Saudi agents had been waiting when Khashoggi walked into the consulate to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.
The report said that Khashoggi could have been dead within minutes, beheaded, dismembered, his fingers severed, and that the killers left within two hours.
A senior Turkish official and a report in Yeni Safak newspaper said the Saudi consul general could be heard in the audio recordings, telling Khashoggi's torturers, "Do this outside; you're going to get me in trouble."
"If you want to live when you come back to Arabia, shut up," one of the Saudi agents replied.
Some reports said that Saudi forensic specialist Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy could be heard putting on headphones to listen to music and telling other Saudi agents to do the same while dismembering Khashoggi's body.
Turkish authorities said that Tubaigy was carrying a bone saw when he flew in and out of Istanbul.
In another report on Thursday, Yeni Safak said that one of the members of the Saudi hit squad had died in a "suspicious car accident" in Riyadh.
It identified the victim as Mashal Saad al-Bostani, a 31-year-old lieutenant of the Saudi Royal Air Force.
The audio recordings are said to have been obtained by Turkish intelligence. Ankara has reportedly declined to share the evidence in its possession with the US.
Trump asks for evidence, denies cover-up
On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump tried to cast doubt on Turkey's findings in the case, and said, "We've asked for it … if it exists."
"I'm not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does," said Trump.
Trump noted that this is "gonna be the first question I ask" when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returns from his "fact-finding" mission in the Middle East, where he visited Riyadh and Ankara over the Khashoggi case.
He also denied covering up for ally Saudi Arabia in the suspected murder of the critical journalist and claimed he expected to learn the truth about Khashoggi's fate within days.
"No, not at all, I just want to find out what's happening," Trump said. "I'm not giving cover at all."
Khashoggi slain in 'barbaric way'
In another development, Turan Kislakci - a close friend of Jamal Khashoggi - said that Turkish officials had told him that Khashoggi had been killed in a "barbaric way."
"I talked with some Turkish government and security officials and they said Jamal was killed. I didn't know what to do. I really couldn't answer. Then I called a few colleagues, again security officials, trying to have them verify it, saying 'Is this really true?'" Kislakci told ABC News.
"They said, 'Yes, Turan, and let's tell you even beyond that, he was killed in a very barbaric way.' I was shocked. They not only kill him in the consulate, but also in a barbaric way."
French, Dutch ministers skip Riyadh conference
As global outrage grows over the suspected murder of Khashoggi, senior international figures, business firms and media groups are one by one pulling out of the Future Investment Initiative conference slated for October 23-25 in Riyadh.
The event is meant to promote foreign investment inside the kingdom in favor of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious economic plans.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire announced on Thursday that he would shun the event over the case.
"I won't go to Riyadh next week," Le Maire told France's Public Senat TV channel, stressing that Khashoggi's disappearance was "very serious."
In a similar move, Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra also dropped his plan to attend the Riyadh conference.
Speaking on the case, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said as he announced the decision on Twitter, "The disappearance of #Khashoggi is a very serious matter. Saudi Arabia has not yet been able to provide any clarification."
"That is why we decided @WBHoekstra will not travel to Riyadh today. The Netherlands stands for press freedom, worldwide," the minister added.
The Netherlands also cancelled a trade mission to Saudi Arabia in the wake of reports suggesting Khashoggi's death.
"All trade missions to the country have been suspended for now", a spokeswoman for PSPS Consultants, which had organized the trip for the Dutch government, told Reuters.
Khashoggi's final column for the Post
Separately on Wednesday, The Washington Post, to which Khashoggi contributed as a columnist, published what it says is Khashoggi's final column, which is about the importance of press freedom in the Arab world.
"The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power," he writes.
"The Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important, we need to provide a platform for Arab voices," he adds.
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