Accused of being responsible for the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi officials have added to suspicions by making contradictory assertions on the case.
Khashoggi has long been feared killed after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and was never seen leaving.
On the same day, 15 Saudi nationals, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the consulate while Khashoggi was still inside, according to Turkish police sources. All of the identified individuals left Turkey within 25 hours of arriving.
Riyadh’s claim that they were merely “tourists” has increasingly come under scrutiny since information concerning their identities began to emerge.
Among the group were senior diplomats and soldiers known to be close to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman as well as one of the country’s high-ranking autopsy and forensic specialists.
Citing U.S. intelligence intercepts, the Washington Post reported the crown prince had sought to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him.
However, bin Salman said his government was "very keen to know what happened" to Khashoggi and that the latter had left the consulate "after a few minutes or one hour."
Despite this, Saudi officials have so far failed to come up with credible proof that Khashoggi had left the building safe and sound, blaming faulty security cameras, whereas CCTV footage had been released showing him entering the consulate.
Amid a probe into the journalist’s disappearance, crime scene investigation units arrived at Saudi Consul General Muhammad al-Otaibi’s official residence Wednesday.
Al-Otaibi had left Turkey without making any statements just before his residence was searched by forensic teams.
Saudi officials have been reluctant in conducting an official investigation into the case, only allowing an inspection of the consulate two weeks after Khashoggi’s disappearance despite multiple statements from Riyadh that the government had “nothing to hide”.
Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin announced on Oct. 11 that Riyadh had proposed establishing a joint Turkish-Saudi team to shed light on the issue.
While Saudi officials “commended” Turkey’s positive response, little progress was achieved regarding the team due to Riyadh’s foot-dragging, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stating that the Turkish side had yet to see any cooperation.