The mys­tery of Ja­mal Khashoggi

A Saudi jour­nal­ist walks into a con­sulate and never comes out. He is be­lieved to have been dis­mem­bered. Why?

The West Australian - - AGENDA -

As Ja­mal Khashoggi pre­pared to en­ter the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul on Oc­to­ber 2, a squad of men from Saudi Ara­bia who Turk­ish in­ves­ti­ga­tors sus­pect played a role in his dis­ap­pear­ance was ready and in place.

They had ar­rived from Riyadh, the Saudi cap­i­tal, early that morn­ing and checked in at two in­ter­na­tional ho­tels in Is­tan­bul be­fore driv­ing to the con­sulate in the leafy Levent neigh­bour­hood.

By the end of the day, the 15-mem­ber Saudi team had con­ducted its busi­ness and left the coun­try, de­part­ing on planes bound for Cairo and Dubai, ac­cord­ing to flight records and peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Turk­ish of­fi­cials be­lieve that Khashoggi, a prom­i­nent jour­nal­ist and critic of the Saudi Govern­ment, was killed and dis­mem­bered in­side the con­sulate to con­ceal mur­der.

They have iden­ti­fied one of the 15 Saudis as a foren­sic ex­pert known for pi­o­neer­ing rapid and mo­bile au­top­sies, Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy.

Tubaigy, 47, wears two hats in Saudi Ara­bia. He is a top pro­fes­sor in the crim­i­nal ev­i­dence de­part­ment at Naif Arab Uni­ver­sity for Se­cu­rity Sci­ences, where he pre­sides over master the­sis classes on iden­ti­fy­ing bones through DNA anal­y­sis and how the use of formalde­hyde lim­its ge­netic tis­sue anal­y­sis.

But Tubaigy is also close to Saudi se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions, teach­ing and pro­vid­ing ex­pert opin­ions on ev­i­dence col­lec­tion and in­ves­ti­ga­tion. In 2014, he con­vinced Saudi of­fi­cials to let him help de­sign and buy a $2.5 mil­lion, trac­tor-trailer size au­topsy lab to ac­com­pany Mus­lims on the hajj to Mecca.

Seven of the 15 iden­tify them­selves in so­cial me­dia pro­files or pub­lished ac­counts as mem­bers of Saudi mil­i­tary.

The al­leged pres­ence of Tubaigy, who has taught and pub­lished pa­pers on gath­er­ing DNA ev­i­dence and dis­sect­ing hu­man bod­ies, am­pli­fies the macabre nar­ra­tive put forth by the Turk­ish in­ves­ti­ga­tors, a nar­ra­tive de­nied by Saudi Ara­bia, who says Khashoggi walked out of the con­sulate on K his own. hashoggi was once a Saudi in­sider who served as a close aide to the king­dom’s for­mer spy chief be­fore turn­ing into a vo­cal critic of the regime.

He was long con­sid­ered one of Saudi’s most prom­i­nent jour­nal­ists, work­ing in the field since the 1980s and serv­ing stints as the for­mer ed­i­tor of the Saudi al-Watan and Arab News news­pa­pers and at a Saudi TV news chan­nel.

He cov­ered the rise of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1980s, which led to him be­com­ing a valu­able source of in­for­ma­tion in the af­ter­math of the al-Qaida-in­sti­gated Septem­ber 11 at­tacks on the US in 2001.

But more re­cently he was known as a fierce critic of the king­dom’s lead­er­ship, par­tic­u­larly Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, speak­ing out against the con­tin­ued ar­rest of crit­ics on both the Left and Right.

In 2017, Khashoggi left Saudi Ara­bia and lived in ex­ile in the US, re­port­edly be­cause he feared for his safety and for the dwin­dling free­dom of speech un­der the rule of the Crown Prince, who for more than a year has been purg­ing his crit­ics.

Wealthy mem­bers of the royal fam­ily have had their as­sets con­fis­cated. Crit­ics have died in mys­te­ri­ous he­li­copter crashes. Other have been be­headed; their bod­ies left in B pub­lic. efore Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance, US in­tel­li­gence had in­ter­cepted com­mu­ni­ca­tions of Saudi of­fi­cials dis­cussing a plan to cap­ture him, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the in­for­ma­tion.

The Saudis re­port­edly wanted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Ara­bia and lay hands on him there. It was not clear whether they in­tended to ar­rest and in­ter­ro­gate Khashoggi or kill him, or if the US warned Khashoggi that he was a tar­get.

Khashoggi, 59, was in Turkey and vis­ited the con­sulate to fi­nalise his di­vorce, so he could marry his Turk­ish fi­ancee Hat­ice Cen­giz. The cou­ple had planned to live both in Is­tan­bul and the US.

Ac­cord­ing to flight records, two pri­vately owned planes fly­ing from Riyadh ar­rived in Is­tan­bul on Oc­to­ber 2, one be­fore sun­rise and the other in the late af­ter­noon. A Turk­ish of­fi­cial linked the call sig­nals of the two Gulf­stream planes to those that in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve car­ried the 15 Saudis. The planes are owned by Riyadh-based Sky Prime Avi­a­tion Ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic records.

Flight data col­lected by AirNavRadarBox, a firm that tracks pri­vate and com­mer­cial planes all over the world, shows that the first of the two planes left Riyadh late on Oc­to­ber 1 and touched down in Is­tan­bul the fol­low­ing day at 3.15am.

The squad checked into the Moven­pick, one of the peo­ple

with knowl­edge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion said. Man­age­ment at the five-star ho­tel said they were not al­lowed to con­firm nor deny that the group had checked in or that their ho­tel was part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. A ho­tel worker con­firmed that the group did check in.

This first plane was car­ry­ing the part of the Saudi team that was await­ing Khashoggi at the con­sulate, in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve, when he ar­rived at 1.14 pm to col­lect a doc­u­ment he needed for his up­com­ing mar­riage.

Turkey’s Govern­ment says it has seen no ev­i­dence sup­port­ing the Saudi claim that Khashoggi ever left the con­sulate alive.

Turk­ish po­lice op­er­ate at least one cam­era at the front of the build­ing. In­ves­ti­ga­tors have also ex­am­ined footage that cov­ers the rear of the mis­sion.

“It’s clear he did not exit,” said one Turk­ish of­fi­cial with knowl­edge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Be­hind a gate next to the front en­trance is a cov­ered car­port, out of the view of cam­eras. From that garage, two ve­hi­cles ex­ited about two hours af­ter Khashoggi en­tered the con­sulate, ac­cord­ing to one of the peo­ple briefed on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. One of the cars was a Mer­cedes that had ear­lier pulled up in front of the Saudi Con­sul-Gen­eral’s res­i­dence.

Flight data shows that a sec­ond pri­vate jet, be­lieved by in­ves­ti­ga­tors to be trans­port­ing the rest of the team, touched down in Is­tan­bul at 5.15pm. It is un­clear whether those on board trav­elled to ei­ther the con­sulate or the res­i­dence. It de­parted an hour and 15 min­utes af­ter it ar­rived, head­ing for Cairo. Twenty-five hours af­ter its ar­rival in Cairo, the plane left for Riyadh.

The ini­tial plane left Is­tan­bul at 10.45pm and made a stop about 400km to the east in Nal­li­han, Turkey. Then it skirted the bor­der be­tween Iraq and Iran, favour­ing the Iraqi side, and crossed over the Per­sian Gulf. It landed in Dubai at 2.30am. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, Oc­to­ber 3, it took off for Riyadh.

Turk­ish of­fi­cials have re­vealed they have au­dio of an in­ter­ro­ga­tion and beat­ing in­side the con­sulate on that day.

They are adamant Khashoggi is dead.

Pic­ture: AP

Se­cu­rity guards at the con­sulate.

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