Istanbul mystery

Where in the world is Jamal Khashoggi?The Saudi government must tell us The disappearance of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi has triggered a diplomatic storm. Countries including the U.S. and Turkey as well as international organisations like the UN have turned up the pressure on Riyadh to reveal the truth. The journalist, known for his columns in the Washington Post critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has not been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The Turkish authorities have released video footage of Mr. Khashoggi entering the consulate and said there is no footage of him leaving the building. Saudi Arabia maintains that the journalist, who visited the consulate for a divorce certificate, left safely, but has not offered any evidence for this. Mr. Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, who waited for him outside the consulate for hours, vows he never returned. There are already several theories doing the rounds on what might have happened to him. The most horrifying among them draws from reports quoting Turkish investigation officials that Mr. Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate and his body dismembered for disposal. On the same day that he entered the consulate, a 15-member team from Saudi Arabia had arrived in Turkey and was inside the consulate building. Turkish officials say they were military and intelligence officials, including a forensic expert, who carried out the assassination within two hours of Mr. Khashoggi’s arrival, and left immediately thereafter. Saudi Arabia has so far rejected the reports of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. But if he did leave the consulate, as Saudi officials claim, the burden of proof is on them to prove that he actually did so. They have not even been able to offer a credible explanation on what happened to him, except to repeatedly claim that he left the consulate safely. They took 13 days since Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance to let Turkish officials finally search the consulate premises. Even U.S. President Donald Trump, a strong backer of the kingdom’s 33-year-old Crown Prince, warned of “severe punishment” if Riyadh was found to be responsible for the disappearance. The controversy is particularly damaging for MBS, as Mohammed bin Salman is widely known, who spent millions to project himself as a social and economic reformer who could lead Saudi Arabia into the 21st century. Chief executives of some of the potential big-ticket investors, including JP Morgan, Blackstone and BlackRock, have already pulled out of an investment conference due to be held in Riyadh next week, which MBS is expected to address. Any delay in letting the world know the truth about Mr. Khashoggi will only make matters worse for the kingdom, which is already known for its poor human rights record, including on MBS’s watch. The international community, including the U.S., a crucial ally of Saudi Arabia, has a moral responsibility to maintain the pressure on the kingdom till it reveals the truth.

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