Erdogan hopes Jamal Khashoggi still alive after officials suggest Saudi journalist killed in consulate

Journalist and dissident vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin on the disappearance of a Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he is hopeful that a prominent Saudi journalist who disappeared in Istanbul last week will emerge unharmed, even after Turkish officials warned that he may have been killed inside his own nation’s consulate.

Jamal Khashoggi, 59, a Saudi dissident and journalist writing for The Washington Post, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in the Levent district of Istanbul to take care of some personal paperwork. His disappearance has roiled the Arab world, and threatened to create fresh diplomatic troubles for the Saudi kingdom, under the sway of its ambitious crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

“I still have good expectations. We hope not to come across an undesirable situation about missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” Mr Erdogan told reporters, according to local news outlets. “As president, I am following the situation. Whatever the result, we will inform the world of it.”

The president said Turkish investigators were examining closed-circuit television footage and airport transits. Turkish officials and those briefed on the matter said Saturday night they feared that Mr Khashoggi had been killed and his body removed based on circumstantial evidence collected via closed-circuit television cameras positioned around the consulate.

Saudi Arabian officials have strongly denied that any harm has come to Mr Khashoggi at their hands, insisting he left the consulate on Tuesday shortly after entering. The consul general has allowed Turkish authorities as well as a Reuters correspondent to examine the facility.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia already find themselves on opposite sides of several major regional issues, including Ankara’s strong partnership with Qatar, which Riyadh bitterly opposes. Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance could further exacerbate relations, though neither side has an interest in escalating. Both Mr Erdogan and Crown Prince Mohammed, each known for shooting from the hip, have thus far remained diplomatic about the matter.

With 1.68 million Twitter followers and a vast network of contacts and friends throughout international media and political circles, Mr Khashoggi is a high-profile figure, and his possible abduction or worse at the hands of Saudi authorities has alarming implications for human rights and press freedom monitors.

“If true, this would be an abysmal new low,” Amnesty International’s Middle East research director Lynn Maalouf said in a statement Sunday. “Such an assassination within the grounds of the consulate, which is territory under Saudi Arabian jurisdiction, would amount to an extrajudicial execution.

Following the continuing waves of political cataclysms sparked by the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, many dissidents across the Middle East and North Africa were forced to seek exile for their own safety. Ms Maalouf said Mr Khasoggi’s case “sends a shockwave among Saudi Arabian human rights defenders and dissidents everywhere, eroding any notion of seeking safe haven abroad”.

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