Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he is personally “chasing” the investigation into prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who went missing after entering the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul last week.
The President’s comments came after unnamed Turkish officials told the Washington Post and Reuters on Saturday that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.
“I am following it up as the President of the Turkish Republic,” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara on Sunday, while also confirming that he had known Khashoggi for some time and considered him a friend.
“I am chasing. We will of course share the result with the world,” Erdogan added. “All the footage of entrance or exit of the embassy is under investigation.”
Khashoggi, a Washington Post writer and outspoken critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s leadership, entered the consulate Tuesday to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage while his Turkish fiancée waited outside. But his fiancée says she never saw him re-emerge.
Yasin Aktay, a political adviser to Erdogan, told CNN Sunday he too believes there is a strong possibility that Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate.
“I personally think the possibility of him being killed is stronger than other possibilities, although I do not want to accept it. Because if he was alive, Saudis would provide evidence that he is alive,” Aktay told CNN during a telephone interview in Istanbul.
“If he is not in the consulate and if he did not leave through the normal ways, he might have left sedated or left in pieces.”
Saudi Arabia has strenuously denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, calling the claims “false.” A Saudi official said Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after he visited. The Saudis did not, however, release any surveillance footage or other evidence.
As demands for answers grew, the consulate gave journalists a tour of the six-story building in an effort to prove Khashoggi was not inside. Reuters said that a consulate official gave their journalists a tour of each room, even opening up cupboards and filing cabinets. No sign of him was found.
A statement released on Sunday on behalf of Khashoggi’s family in Saudi Arabia accused the media of “politicizing” his disappearance.
“We trust the government and the actions taken by it and all the efforts being made in the case of Jamal Khashoggi. There’s coordination with the government and the embassy in Ankara,” read the statement.
“We know the objectives behind electronic media and frenzied news outlets that attack our country for negative purposes. We tell these people to remain silent as their purposes and intentions have failed.”
Khashoggi’s disappearance comes amid a wave of arrests of Saudi critics, allegedly steered by the Crown Prince. The crackdowns have targeted clerics, journalists, academics and activists, some of whom were detained outside Saudi Arabia.
Aktay, who is also an adviser to the ruling AK Party, told CNN that said the Turkish government is not “ignoring any piece of evidence,” and said the Saudis are not “sharing any convincing explanations on what happened inside the building.”
“This is an attack to Turkey’s image. All people who enter Turkey under visa are under Turkey’s protection,” Aktay said. “Turkey is holding Saudi Arabia accountable.”