The much-discussed and often-delayed joint inspection of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by Turkish and Saudi officials formally began on Monday.
Turkish media claimed one of the leads Turkish police investigated claimed Saudi forces inside the consulate killed missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi and “evaporated” his remains with acid.
Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News details the claim:
Turkish police investigating the case had said in a statement on Oct. 6 that 15 Saudis, including several officials, had arrived in Istanbul on two planes and entered the consulate while Khashoggi was inside. The group included a leading forensic expert, as well as Saudi intelligence officers and Royal Guards, according to reports.
Turan Kışlakçı, head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association and a friend of Khashoggi, had claimed after the disappearance that the Saudis inside the consulate had already gotten rid of the journalist’s body after killing him.
Habertürk website’s columnist Sevilay Yılman wrote on Oct. 15 that Turkish security forces started to look into Kışlakçı’s claim.
“Police and the MİT [Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency] are now probing this claim seriously. They are looking into whether the body of Khashoggi was dissolved using acid,” she said.
A media frenzy erupted on Monday over the arrival of three cleaning personnel arriving at the Saudi consulate just hours ahead of the Turkish inspection team. The reports did not indicate whether any other cleaning teams have worked at the consulate over the last two weeks, or whether this was a regularly scheduled visit.
If the most lurid accusations from Turkish officials are true, it would seem very odd that a 15-man Saudi hit squad did not clean up after itself very thoroughly after performing an execution that could severely damage the future of the Kingdom. One does not wait for the maid service to arrive two weeks later to sanitize a murder scene.
The Chicago Tribune took the appearance of the cleaning crew, which marched right past a horde of journalists carrying “mops, trash bags, and cartons of milk,” as symbolic of the low odds investigators will find any meaningful evidence within the consulate.
The Turkish inspectors arrived Monday in unmarked police cars and said nothing to reporters as they entered the Saudi consulate. Turkish officials did not inform the media of the makeup of the Turkish team. Reports last week indicated the Turkish government wanted to search the consulate using luminol, a chemical that highlights traces of blood on walls, floor, or furniture.
The problem facing the Saudis is the difficulty of imagining any forensic evidence that would exonerate them. If investigators find nothing inside the consulate, it will merely be taken as evidence the killers or kidnappers covered their tracks.
The Tribune also commented on the backlash brewing in Saudi Arabia and allied Gulf states over the Khashoggi allegations:
The Arabic-language daily Okaz wrote a headline on Monday in English warning: “Don’t Test Our Patience.” It showed a clenched fist made of a crowd of people in the country’s green color.
The Saudi Gazette trumpeted: “Enough Is Enough,” while the Arab News said: “Saudi Arabia ‘will not be bullied’.”
The Arab News’ headline was above a front-page editorial by Dubai-based real-estate tycoon Khalaf al-Habtoor, calling on Gulf Arab nations to boycott international firms now backing out of a planned economic summit in Riyadh later this month.
“Together we must prove we will not be bullied or else, mark my words, once they have finished kicking the kingdom, we will be next in line,” al-Habtoor said.
A boycott of Uber is reportedly brewing in Bahrain because Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi pulled out of the upcoming Saudi investment conference billed as “Davos in the Desert” to compare it favorably with the World Economic Forum.