Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in the Kingdom’s Consulate in Istanbul on orders from the highest levels of the royal court, Turkish officials have concluded.
Saudi special forces officers, intelligence officials, national guards and a forensics expert were allegedly among a 15-person team involved in the alleged murder of the high-profile dissident, Turkish pro-government newspapers said.
According to Turkish officials Khashoggi – a US resident and a contributor to the Washington Post who was highly critical of the Saudi royal court – was tortured, then killed and his body smuggled out of the consulate, all under the nose of local agencies.
Details of the Saudi hit squad who travelled to Istanbul were released amid a claim that they had brought with them a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi.
“It was like Pulp Fiction,” a Turkish official told the New York Times.
Suggestions that Khashoggi was killed and his body then mutilated have gained wide circulation in the week since he vanished, and Turkish officials continue to insist he met a brutal fate when he stepped through the doors of the diplomatic mission.
Khashoggi was in Istanbul to obtain a document verifying his divorce from a previous marriage so that he could marry a Turkish woman.
Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have denied the allegations, insisting that Khashoggi left the consulate freely shortly after he arrived but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded the Saudis to provide evidence proving their claim.
Khashoggi used to enjoy close ties to the Saudi royal family and in the early 2000s, he served as an adviser to Saudi Prince Turki bin-Faisal, the former director of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, while the prince was the ambassador to Washington.
Khashoggi also worked as the editor of a Saudi newspaper, Al Watan but more recently the 59-year-old journalist became one of the few public intellectuals to openly critique the new administration of Prince Mohammed.
In a column published last September titled “Saudi Arabia wasn’t always this repressive. Now it’s unbearable,” Khashoggi expressed his disappointment at how the crown prince failed to drive through the promised reforms.
“I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice,” he wrote. “To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot. I want you to know that Saudi Arabia has not always been as it is now. We Saudis deserve better.”
Khashoggi also expressed concern about being targeted by the Saudi government for his views, telling journalist Robin Wright in August that the country’s new leadership would like to “see me out of the picture.”