Columnists, rights groups fear Khashoggi 'murdered'


By Satuk Bugra Kutlugun

ANKARA (AA) – Influential Western media columnists, human rights groups, and news outlets are arguing that missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered after he was last seen at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Ever since Khashoggi went missing, speculation has mounted that he was killed by the Saudi authorities, who have yet to provide a convincing explanation for his disappearance.

In his Oct. 18 op-ed "What did U.S. spy agencies know about threats on Khashoggi — and when?" Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, said Saudi Arabia must conduct a serious, no-holds-barred investigation of the apparently gruesome murder of Khashoggi, also a Post columnist.

“The kingdom’s relationship with the United States, and its access to global financial markets, hangs in the balance," he wrote.

"But in the meantime, the Senate and House intelligence committees should begin an urgent oversight investigation of what U.S. spy agencies knew about threats against Khashoggi — and also into their broader reporting and analysis on Saudi Arabia and its headstrong crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman," he wrote.

In his Oct. 12 op-ed "Jamal Khashoggi’s long road to the doors of the Saudi Consulate," David Ignatius called the disappearance of the 57-year-old journalist "a macabre mystery."

"Turkish officials say he was interrogated, killed and hacked into pieces by a 15-man hit squad sent from Riyadh; several U.S. sources speculate that the Saudis might have tried to kidnap Khashoggi back to the kingdom and botched the job. What’s certain is that Khashoggi’s disappearance from the consulate was a flagrant attack on a courageous journalist," he wrote.

-'Slow and agonizing'

In his Oct. 16 article "In the Wake of Khashoggi’s Disappearance, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Is Pushed to the Brink," The New Yorker magazine writer Dexter Filkins argued: "It seems nearly certain now that Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist, died a slow and agonizing death, the kind that none of us could dare imagine for ourselves."

"It seems equally clear that Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and a columnist for the Washington Post, was murdered, probably on orders of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman."

Filkins also said he spoke to Khashoggi only six days before he disappeared.

"He was writing to tell me about the latest crackdown on the Saudi press, which had led to several reporters being imprisoned. He sent me clips from Saudi newspapers documenting their detention. ‘I hope you are interested in the story,’ Jamal wrote in an e-mail. ‘Saudi authorities are making a mockery of justice while the world celebrates MBS’ [Muhammad bin Salman’s] reforms!’ "

-Final column?

Late Wednesday, The Washington Post published Khashoggi’s presumed final column, with a prologue by editor Karen Attiah saying goodbye to her colleague.

"I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together," she wrote.

"Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together."

In his piece, “What the Arab world needs most is free expression,” Khashoggi wrote that after viewing the “2018 Freedom in the World” report by U.S.-based NGO Freedom House, he “came to a grave realization.”

"There is only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as ‘free.’ That nation is Tunisia. Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait come second, with a classification of ‘partly free.’ The rest of the countries in the Arab world are classified as ‘not free'."

– Oslo's 'broken promises'

In her Oct. 16 article at Human Rights Watch’s website entitled "The UK Should Suspend Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia – Stop Assisting Abuses in Yemen" Myrto Tilianaki, the group’s advocacy & communications coordinator, argued: "The Saudi authorities’ apparent brazen crime of disappearing and potentially murdering Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi, not seen since entering Istanbul’s Saudi consulate on October 2, has surprised even those used to following Saudi Arabia’s atrocious rights record."

One of the last visits Khashoggi made before he disappeared was to Sept. 29 in London at the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, which the Middle East Monitor agency hosted.

At the conference titled "Oslo at 25: A Legacy of Broken Promises," Khashoggi said the Oslo Accords "should be proclaimed dead."

"Khashoggi lamented that such a conference could probably not be repeated in the Middle East, noting that ‘an event like that would be difficult to hold today in the Arab world because we are retreating from freedom in most of the Arab countries’,” wrote Middle East Monitor.

It continued by quoting Khashoggi: “Most of the Arab world is currently collapsing, for example in Libya, Syria and Yemen and has no interest in discussing Palestine because they have miseries of their own. Then in countries like Saudi Arabia, my country, or in Egypt, they have no interest in those kinds of issues that motivate and rally the people because they want to subdue them instead.”

Khashoggi, a Saudi-born journalist with permanent residency in the U.S., has been missing since he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

That same day, 15 Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the building while Khashoggi was still inside, Turkish police sources said. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey.

Several countries — including Turkey, the U.S. and the U.K. — have continued to press Riyadh for clarification of the journalist’s fate.