Turkish police find Saudi consulate car abandoned in Istanbul parking lot
Eyüp Serbest / Fırat Alkaç - ISTANBUL
Turkish police on Oct. 22 found an abandoned car bearing a diplomatic plate in a private Istanbul parking lot, matching a car seen outside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul where Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi had disappeared on Oct. 2.
The Mercedes in Istanbul’s Sultangazi district was discovered after a tip-off from a reader who called the Hürriyet reporters.
Meanwhile, another vehicle, carrying no license plate, was removed from the consulate on Oct. 22 with a tow truck.
The discovery of the Mercedes came as five more Turkish employees of the Saudi mission testified on Oct. 22.
Among those who testified to the prosecutors assigned by the terror and organized crimes unit of Istanbul’s Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, a consulate staffer — employed as a driver — spoke to reporters after his testimony at the Istanbul Courthouse in the Çağlayan neighbourhood.
The employee said the prosecutors asked them whether something “extraordinary” happened on Oct. 2 in the consulate or if they saw Khashoggi and 15 other Saudis, how long they were employed in the consulate, where they are from and the working hours of the staff.
The driver reportedly said they did not sense an extraordinary situation on the day when Khashoggi entered the consulate, that he was not sent anywhere out of the consulate, and the working hours began at 9 a.m. (0600GMT) and ended 3:30 p.m. (1230GMT) local time.
The driver added that the employees left the building as usual when their shift ended on Oct. 2.
Upon the questions of journalists, he said that he knew Saudi Consul General Mohammad al-Otaibi, who left Turkey for Riyadh last week.
The witnesses later left the courthouse.
The remaining 17 personnel — who are Turkish and foreign nationals — are expected to appear at the courthouse to submit their testimonies as part of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office’s probe, the sources added.
Last week, a total of 23 consulate employees had also spoken to the prosecutors.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, had gone missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Since the disappearance, Turkey has provided local and international media information that it was certain the journalist was killed inside the consulate. After denying Turkey’s claims for several days, Saudi Arabia on Oct. 20 said Khashoggi died in the consulate, but was killed during a “fistfight” in the building.
On the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance, 15 other Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the consulate while he was still inside, according to Turkish police sources. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey.
A joint Turkish-Saudi team completed an investigation into the case on Oct. 18 after searching the residence of the consul general as well as the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
On Oct. 21, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he will make a statement on Khashoggi’s killing on Oct. 23 during his party’s group meeting in parliament.
The killing of Khashoggi is a complicated murder that has been “monstrously planned,” the spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said on Oct. 22.
Speaking to reporters in Ankara, Ömer Çelik also said claims of negotiations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia as part of the investigation into Khashoggi’s killing were unethical, adding that it was Turkey’s responsibility to uncover the truth about the case.
“I hope those responsible for Khashoggi’s killing are punished and no one ever thinks of repeating this,” he said.