'Deafening silence': The White House's response to missing Saudi journalist

Elias Hubbard
October 19, 2018

"This apparent enforced disappearance of Mr Khashoggi from the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul is of serious concern".

OSMAN ORSAL/REUTERS/NewscomNearly a week after the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared, suspicions are rising that the regime in Riyadh has silenced him. He added that he spoke with the Saudis about what he called a "bad situation", but he did not disclose details. Saudi authorities early Sunday called the allegation "baseless".

United Nations human rights experts have called for an immediate global investigation into the disappearance of a Saudi journalist who went missing after visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, with one insisting the case "should not be politicized".

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he was concerned about reports of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who has been missing since last week and Turkish sources have said that authorities believe he was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

As a precaution, he told Cengiz that she should contact an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he did not return.

Turkish prosecutors are already investigating the disappearance of Khashoggi, who has written columns critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Mr Hunt's intervention followed the publication of a CCTV image apparently showing Mr Khashoggi walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, just before he went missing.

More than 20 Republican and Democratic senators instructed Trump to order an investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance under legislation that authorizes imposition of sanctions for perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross human rights violations.

"Most of their cases have nothing to do with freedom of speech and a lot of them will return to their homes when the process is finished", he said.

The freeze on journalism and free expression isn't limited to Saudi Arabia in the greater Persian Gulf.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed his comments in a statement late Wednesday, saying there were "conflicting reports", but that the USA was "concerned" by Khashoggi's disappearance.

Khashoggi, who left Saudi Arabia in 2017, was living in United States and his write-ups were regularly being published by the Washington Post.

He went to the consulate on 2 October to obtain paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, who was reportedly waiting outside the building for him. "We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate", said the official.

"The Saudi Consulate officials in Istanbul can't get away with [simply] saying 'he left the building.' The claimants are obligated to prove their claims".

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman previously told Bloomberg that Riyadh was "ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search" the consulate, which is Saudi sovereign territory.

Whether or not the facts come out about what has happened, regional fallout will likely follow, and the existing camps of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, versus Qatar and Turkey are likely to become even more entrenched.

He has also criticised Saudi Arabia's role in Yemen, where Riyadh leads a military coalition fighting alongside the government in its war with Iran-backed rebels. Erdogan also said police officers were examining CCTV footage of entrances and exits at the consulate and Istanbul airport.

Khashoggi has been an outspoken critic of the Saudi government, causing him to leave his home country previous year to live in exile in the United States. It was not immediately clear whether the second plane, pictured here, which left Istanbul for Egypt, was also searched.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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