UK challenges Saudis over missing writer

UK challenges Saudis over missing writer

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This image appears to show Jamal Khashoggi entering the consulate last week Image copyright TRT World
Image caption This image appears to show Jamal Khashoggi entering the consulate last week

The UK’s foreign secretary has told Saudi Arabia that Britain expects urgent answers over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In a phone call to Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, Jeremy Hunt warned that “friendships depend on shared values”.

Mr Khashoggi was last seen visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week, and Turkey says he may have been murdered there.

Saudi Arabia denies the suggestion.

Taking a tougher line than the Trump administration, a spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign Office said, if media reports surrounding the case were correct, the UK would treat the incident “very seriously.”

Earlier today, US President Donald Trump said he had not yet spoken to Saudi officials about the journalist’s disappearance.

“I have not. But I will be at some point,” he told reporters. “I know nothing right now. I know what everybody else knows – nothing.”

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Turkey says it will conduct a search of Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said the country was “open to co-operation” and a search of the building could go ahead as part of the investigation.

It says the journalist left the consulate shortly after arriving, while Turkey says he was not seen leaving the building.

The country has demanded Saudi Arabia prove he left, while not providing evidence to support the claim he was killed inside.

Who is Jamal Khashoogi?

A critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Mr Khashoggi was living in self-imposed exile in the US and writing opinion pieces for the Washington Post before his disappearance.

A former editor of the al-Watan newspaper and a short-lived Saudi TV news channel, he was for years seen as close to the Saudi royal family. He served as an adviser to senior Saudi officials.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionJamal Khashoggi: Saudi Arabia needs reform, but one-man rule is “bad” for the kingdom

But after several of his friends were arrested, his column was cancelled by the al-Hayat newspaper and he was allegedly warned to stop tweeting, Mr Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia for the US.

What’s been the reaction to the disappearance?

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Saudi Arabia to “support a thorough investigation” of his disappearance and “to be transparent about the results”.

UN experts have demanded a “prompt independent and international investigation” into his disappearance.

Last week, Crown Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg News that his government was “very keen to know what happened to him”, and that Mr Khashoggi had left “after a few minutes or one hour”.


An unacceptable line?

Analysis by BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins

The UK has apparently told the Saudis they need to show Mr Khashoggi is alive, and the best way to do that would be for him to appear on television.

If that doesn’t happen soon, it’s clear that Britain and its allies are likely to conclude that Saudi Arabia has crossed an unacceptable line.

In the wake of the Salisbury attack, and the international punishment meted out to Russia, it would then be increasingly difficult for Western governments to avoid action against the Saudi kingdom, however close their military and economic ties.


Crown Prince Mohammed’s brother and the Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Khaled bin Salman al-Saud, has insisted all the reports about his disappearance or death “are completely false and baseless”.

“Jamal has many friends in Saudi Arabia, and I am one of them,” he said in a statement, saying the two had kept in touch while he was living abroad “despite differences”.

When was he last seen?

Mr Khashoggi went to the consulate last Tuesday to obtain a document certifying he had divorced his ex-wife, so that he could remarry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

Image caption The journalist’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz said she had waited outside for 11 hours, but he did not come out

She said Mr Khashoggi had been required to surrender his mobile phone, which is standard practice in some diplomatic missions.

He told her to call an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he did not return. She eventually called the police.

What have both countries said?

Turkish officials say Mr Khashoggi was killed on the premises and his body was then removed.

“We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate,” an unnamed source told Reuters.

A source quoted by The Washington Post said the journalist was killed by a 15-member Saudi team sent “specifically for the murder”.

The head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, Turan Kislakci, told the New York Times that Turkish police officers providing security for the consulate had checked their security cameras, which did not show the journalist leaving on foot.

Turkey reportedly says it is scouring road cameras for a black van believed to have carried Mr Khashoggi’s body from the consulate, while the Washington Post released CCTV footage of the journalist entering the building on Monday.

Saudi Arabia says the allegations are baseless. It has allowed journalists into the consulate to show Mr Khashoggi is not there, reportedly even opening cupboards.

The BBC’s Security Correspondent Frank Gardner says one possible scenario is that he was abducted inside the consulate, driven out in a diplomatic vehicle and “rendered” back to Saudi Arabia to either face retribution or be held incommunicado under indefinite house arrest.

Image copyright AFP

Image caption The Saudi consulate said Khashoggi left after completing paperwork

BBC Newshour interviewed the journalist just three days before his visit to the consulate, and in an off-air conversation asked if he would ever return to his home country.

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“I don’t think I’ll be able to go home,” he told the BBC, saying that in Saudi Arabia “the people who are arrested are not even dissidents” and saying he wished he had a platform at home to write and speak freely at this time of “great transformation” in his country.

The programme has released audio of the conversation, saying that although it would not normally do so, it had decided to make an exception “in light of the circumstances”.