The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi  raises a dark question for anyone who dares criticise governments or speak out against those in power: Will the world have their back? Picture: AP
The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi raises a dark question for anyone who dares criticise governments or speak out against those in power: Will the world have their back? Picture: AP

Vanished journo raises dark questions

THE strange disappearance of a Saudi journalist, who walked into a consulate to sign divorce papers and never came out, has attracted suspicion of a Tarantino movie-style assassination plot from the highest world powers.

Those powers include US President Donald Trump, who has vowed to "get to the bottom" of Jamal Khashoggi's suspected murder by Saudi officials - despite the president having close ties to the kingdom.

Mr Khashoggi - a US resident and former Saudi royal insider who later turned into a strong critic of the kingdom, was filmed on CCTV arriving at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2.

Turkey claims a Saudi-ordered "assassination squad" killed and dismembered the journalist's body with a bone saw in a plot that would feel right at home in a Tarantino film.

"It is like 'Pulp Fiction," a Turkish official told the New York Times.

Video released by Turkish media claimed to show evidence of Saudi intelligence officers entering Turkey via Istanbul airport on the day of the disappearance, checking into hotels and later leaving the country.

Mr Khashoggi, 59, went to the consulate to finalise his divorce, so he could marry his Turkish fiance Hatice Cengiz.

They had recently purchased an apartment in Istanbul and wanted to finalise their marriage so they could divide their time living between Turkey and the US.

Ms Cengiz told CNN she suspected Mr Khashoggi "may have been kidnapped, abducted, or some harm may have come to him."

"I hope that it does not turn out to be murder," she said.

Ms Cengiz was waiting outside the consulate about 1pm local time, when her partner walked inside - she said she never saw him re-emerge.

Turkish authorities believe the journalist was killed inside the building - an allegation firmly denied by the Saudis.

The US is reluctant to criticise Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Picture: AP
The US is reluctant to criticise Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Picture: AP

Earlier this week Turkish security officials claimed the "highest levels of the royal court" in the Saudi kingdom had ordered the assassination of Mr Khashoggi.

But a Saudi spokesman said the kingdom's priority was to support the investigation, telling CNN "Jamal's wellbeing, as a Saudi citizen, is our utmost concern."

A week after he vanished, Ms Cengiz wrote an emotional op-ed for the Washington Post pleading for President Trump's intervention.

"We were in the middle of making wedding plans, life plans. After the consulate, we were going to buy appliances for our new home and set a date. All we needed was a piece of paper," she wrote - Mr Khashoggi had worked as a columnist for the Post.

She wrote Mr Khashoggi had dreams of becoming an influential journalist in Washington reporting on the Arab world, adding he had expressed concern about visiting the Saudi consulate in Instanbul as he felt he could be in danger.

"Although his opinions had angered certain people, he said, the tensions between himself and Saudi Arabia did not amount to hate, grudges or threats," she added.

"Although my hope slowly fades away each passing day, I remain confident that Jamal is still alive."

Washington Post writer Jason Rezaian said if the claims against the Saudi's were true "it's a monstrous crime against a journalist who was bringing stories of a hard to penetrate country to light."

Saudi Arabia's Consul-General's residence in Istanbul, Turkey. Picture: Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Saudi Arabia's Consul-General's residence in Istanbul, Turkey. Picture: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Mr Rezaian spent 544 days unjustly imprisoned in Iran after he was convicted of espionage charges.

The US initially kept hush on Mr Khashoggi as the White House is reluctant to criticise the kingdom or its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Both Donald Trump and his son and law have close ties with the Saudis and the president has his own ambitions in the Middle East that depend on the kingdom's money.

Considering this it's surprising Mr Trump has publicly questioned the disappearance, going as far to say that "we cannot let this happen to reporters, to anybody."

Mr Trump is said to be demanding answers from the Saudis "at the highest level" with

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior officials asking the crown prince for more details about the situation.

Meanwhile the UK's foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir that "friendships depend on shared values".

Mr Hunt wrote in a tweet that he had demanded "urgent answers" over the disappearance and that if the assassination speculation is correct Britain will be taking serious action against those responsible.

Meanwhile, Turkey is demanding solid proof from the Saudis that Mr Khashoggi left the consulate and is still alive.

WHO IS JAMAL KHASHOGGI?

Mr Khashoggi 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 regimen - a move which led to his eventual self-exile.

He was long considered to be 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 also covered the rise of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 80s, which led to him becoming a valuable source of information in the aftermath of the al-Qaeda instigated September 11 attacks on the US in 2001.

Under his journalistic leadership in the 00s the al-Watan newspaper ran stories, op-eds and cartoons that were critical of extremists and the way the country enforced religious values. He was fired by the newspaper twice.

More recently he was known as a top critic of the kingdom's current leadership, speaking out against the continued arrest of critics on both the left and right.

He also repeatedly voiced opposition against Riyadh's role leading the war against Yemen's Huthi rebels, a campaign closely identified with Prince Mohammed that has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and generated a major humanitarian disaster.

In 2017 Mr Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia and lived in self-imposed exile in the US.

The Post claims he left the kingdom because he feared for his safety and the dwindling freedom of speech under the rule of the crown prince.

In an interview with Bloomberg the crown prince said he was "very keen to know what happened to Mr Khashoggi".

Prince Mohammed's brother Prince Khalid bin Salman - the kingdom's ambassador to Washington - even went as far to call Mr Khashoggi "a friend".



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