0400 GMT February 18, 2019
Yasin Aktay told CNN Turk that Khashoggi had not left the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, which he had entered on Tuesday to obtain documents for a forthcoming marriage. The case would not go unsolved, Aktay said.
Late on Saturday, Turkish sources told Reuters that Turkish authorities believed Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate, in what they described as the deliberate targeting of a prominent critic of the Persian Gulf kingdom’s rulers.
Also a government source told AFP that Turkish police believe the journalist and critic was murdered inside Saudi Arabia's consulate.
“Based on their initial findings, the police believe that the journalist was killed by a team especially sent to Istanbul and who left the same day,” the Turkish government source told AFP on Saturday.
Police said earlier that around 15 Saudis, including officials, arrived in Istanbul on two flights on Tuesday and were at the consulate at the same time as Khashoggi.
The journalist went to the building to obtain official documents but “did not come back out,” police were quoted as saying by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.
The Washington Post, citing two anonymous officials, reported Saturday night that the journalist was killed in “a preplanned murder” at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Khashoggi, 59, a Washington Post contributor, who vanished after an appointment with Saudi officials on Tuesday, has been critical of some policies of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen, in his newspaper columns.
The former government adviser, who would have turned 60 on October 13, had lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since last year to avoid possible arrest.
An official probe opened
Ankara announced on Saturday it had opened an official probe into his disappearance.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted an unnamed official at the Istanbul consulate as denying the reports of Khashoggi’s murder.
“The official strongly denounced these baseless allegations,” the agency wrote.
It said a team of Saudi investigators were in Turkey working with local authorities.
Reacting to the news, the journalist’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, said on Twitter that she was “waiting for an official confirmation from the Turkish government to believe it.”
Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to receive an official document for their marriage.
Yasin Aktay, an official in Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), who was close to the journalist, said Khashoggi had made an appointment in advance with the consulate and called to check if the documents were ready.
“His friends had warned him, ‘Don’t go there, it is not safe,’ but he said they could not do anything to him in Turkey,” said Aktay.
He added that he still hoped the reports of his friend’s death were untrue.
Prince Mohammed said in an interview published by Bloomberg on Friday that the journalist had left the consulate and Turkish authorities could search the building, which is Saudi sovereign territory.
“We are ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises,” he said. “We have nothing to hide.”
A fundamental break in US-Saudi ties
US Sen. Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Senate's Committee on Foreign Affairs, expressed shock over the news.
“If this is true — that the Saudis lured a US resident into their consulate and murdered him — it should represent a fundamental break in our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.
“If Saudi authorities wish to counter these claims, they must produce Khashoggi immediately. If the killing is confirmed, those responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable,” said Summer Lopez, PEN America’s senior director of free expression programs.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists demanded Riyadh give “a full and credible account” of what happened to Khashoggi inside the consulate.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Twitter that if reports of his death were confirmed, “This would constitute a horrific, utterly deplorable, and absolutely unacceptable assault on press freedom.”
OSCE media freedom representative Harlem Desir said on Twitter that he was "shocked" by the claims.
“If confirmed, that’s an unprecedented crime against journalists. I trust Turkey authorities will unveil details. Those responsible for this horrific crime must face justice,” Desir added.
A spokesperson for the US State Department said it could not confirm the reports but was “closely following the situation.”
The British Foreign Office said in a statement it was “working urgently” to verify the “extremely serious” allegations.
Fred Hiatt, director of the Washington Post's editorial page, said if the reports were true “it is a monstrous and unfathomable act.”
“Jamal was – or, as we hope, is – a committed, courageous journalist. He writes out of a sense of love for his country and deep faith in human dignity and freedom,” Hiatt said in a statement on the US newspaper’s website.