A pro-government Turkish newspaper on Wednesday published the names and photographs of a group of Saudi nationals who allegedly arrived in Istanbul on board two private jets the day journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post, went missing.
Turkish officials have said they believe the Saudi writer and government critic was killed inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul after he visited the mission to obtain a document required to marry his Turkish fiancee. Saudi Arabia has denied the allegations.
The Sabah newspaper, which is close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, revealed the identities of what it called a “mysterious” 15-member “assassination squad” it said was involved in Khashoggi’s alleged death.
The paper printed pictures of the Saudi nationals that appeared to have been taken by security cameras during police control at an airport.
— Sabah Gazetesi (@Sabah) October 10, 2018
Sabah revealed the times the Saudi nationals arrived and left Istanbul. The team arrived in Istanbul on two private planes, one of which landed after 3 a.m. (0000 GMT) on Tuesday while the second plane landed around 5 p.m. (1400 GMT) after Khashoggi entered the consulate.
The individuals checked in to two hotels close to the consulate, the daily said.
Both planes later returned to Riyadh, with one stopping in Dubai and the other in Egypt, the report said, adding that the police were looking into the possibility that Khashoggi was kidnapped.
The planes belonged to a company based in Saudi Arabia that has links to the state.
Istanbul police experts were analyzing vehicles that entered and left the consulate, some of which were then seen on camera on October 2 at the consul-general’s residence, 200 meters away, the report said.
The newspaper also claimed that Turkish employees at the residence were “hastily” told to take a vacation on the day Khashoggi went missing.
The English-language state broadcaster TRT World reported that Turkish officials believe the Saudis may have taken the consulate’s CCTV footage with them when they returned to Riyadh.
Khashoggi, a former Saudi government adviser, had been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since last year fearing possible arrest. He has been critical of some policies of the crown prince and Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen.
Khashoggi’s fiance has asked US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump to “help shed light” on his disappearance.
In a column published Wednesday by the Washington Post, Hatice Cengiz wrote: “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.”
Trump had previously said he was “concerned” about Khashoggi’s fate.
On Tuesday Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy revealed in a statement that Saudi authorities had said they “were open to cooperation and that a search can be conducted at the consulate building.”
The search will take place as part of the official investigation, which was being conducted “in an intense manner,” he said without giving any date.
The UN rights office spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, on Tuesday echoed calls for “a prompt, impartial and independent investigation of the circumstances of Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and to keep the findings public” in comments to journalists in Geneva.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters in Lisbon that “we are 100 percent behind the American position. We expect a thorough investigation and total transparency from the Saudi authorities on what happened.”
Meanwhile, in London, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt met the Saudi ambassador on Tuesday to “seek urgent answers,” according to a post on Twitter.