Jamal Khashoggi was murdered when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Photo: AFP
Saudi hackers using Pegasus software targeted friends and family of Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Photo: AFP

Turkish police believe Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and one of the most prominent critics of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, agencies report.

“The initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Mr. Khashoggi has been killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul. We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate,” a Turkish official told Reuters on Saturday.

Another unnamed government official told AFP that: “Based on their initial findings, the police believe that the journalist was killed by a team especially sent to Istanbul and who left the same day.”

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Turkish police earlier said that 15 Saudis, including officials, had arrived in Istanbul on two flights on Tuesday and were at the consulate at the same time as Khashoggi, Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters he was following an ongoing investigation closely and remaining positive:

“I hope not to come across a situation that is undesirable,” he said.

“Whatever comes of this, we will be the ones to declare it to the world,” he added.

‘Nothing to hide’

Jamal Khashoggi, journalist and regular columnist for the Washington Post, has been missing since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Turkish police investigating the case had said in a statement Saturday that 15 Saudis, including several officials, had arrived in Istanbul on two planes and had entered the consulate while Khashoggi was inside.

Erdogan said he was following the ongoing developments.

“Whatever comes of this, we will be the ones to declare it to the world,” he added.

Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon. His fiancée Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside, said he never emerged. She tweeted Sunday that she refuses to give up hope until she receives government confirmation of his death.

Turan Kislakci, the head of Turkish-Arab Media Association and a friend of Khashoggi told the New York Times that he spoke to Turkish officials about the case. “They confirmed two things: He was killed and his body was dismembered.”

Some have speculated that Khashoggi’s body may have been removed from the country.

Saudi Arabia has insisted that Khashoggi left the consulate before his disappearance. The crown prince, in an interview with Bloomberg on Friday, offered to allow Turkish authorities to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, saying: “We have nothing to hide.”

Amnesty International called on Saudi authorities to “immediately disclose the evidence supporting their claim that Jamal Khashoggi left the consulate last Tuesday, otherwise their claims are utterly baseless and only exacerbate suspicions that they are indeed detaining him in what would amount to an enforced disappearance.”

Khashoggi has been in self-imposed exile for the past year. During that time he has penned regular columns critical of Mohammed bin Salman’s crackdown on independent voices at home and his foreign policies abroad.

His disappearance and reported murder in Istanbul “sends a petrifying signal to peaceful dissidents and critics that they are at risk even outside the country, and that the authorities are targeting them one by one wherever they can do so,” said Lynn Maalouf, the director of Middle East Research at Amnesty International.

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