Turkish police conduct second search of Saudi consulate in İstanbul

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Outside view of the official residence of Consul General of Saudi Arabia as the waiting continues on the disappearance of Prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in Istanbul, Turkey on October 18, 2018. Turkish and Saudi Arabian officials started joint investigation of case of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Officials from a joint Turkish-Saudi team completed an investigation into the case early Thursday after searching the Saudi consul general's official residence as well as the Saudi consulate building in Istanbul. AFP PHOTO

Turkish police searched the Saudi Consulate General in İstanbul for a second time overnight as part of a probe into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Reuters reported.

Turkish officials say they believe Khashoggi — a US resident and Washington Post columnist critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and his body removed.

Saudi Arabia has denied involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Turkish crime scene investigators left the Saudi consulate early on Thursday after searching the building and consular vehicles, a Reuters witness said. They used bright lights to illuminate the garden.

Earlier, the investigators spent nearly nine hours in the Saudi consul’s residence, as did Saudi investigators. The Turkish team’s search included the roof and garage and the use of a drone.

After the first search at the Saudi consulate a pro-government daily claimed that the police would extend its search for the body of Khashoggi to a forest in İstanbul and a farmhouse in Yalova province.

The daily also reported that the Turkish police found “evidence of the murder.”

Turkish sources have told Reuters the authorities have an audio recording indicating Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.

Turkey’s pro-government Yeni Şafak newspaper on Wednesday published what it said were details from audio recordings that purported to document Khashoggi’s torture and interrogation.

The newspaper said Khashoggi’s torturers severed his fingers during the interrogation and later beheaded and dismembered him.

A New York Times report cited a senior Turkish official confirming those details. Two Turkish government officials contacted by Reuters declined to confirm the report.

Turkey has not shared with the US government or European allies graphic audio or video evidence, seven US and European security officials have told Reuters.

The United States and allies have collected some intelligence through their own sources and methods, which partly confirms news reports based on leaks of audio recordings, four of the sources said.

Turkish pro-government newspaper Sabah published preliminary evidence last week from investigators who it said had identified a 15-member Saudi intelligence team that arrived in Istanbul on diplomatic passports hours before Khashoggi disappeared.

One name matches a LinkedIn profile for a forensic expert who has worked at the interior ministry for 20 years. Another is identified in a diplomatic directory from 2007 as a first secretary at the Saudi Embassy in London.

Other names and photos of the 15 resemble officers in the Saudi Army and Air Force, as identified by previous Saudi media reports and in one case a Facebook profile.

A New York Times report, citing witnesses and other records, linked four suspects to Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s security detail.

Prince Mohammed has painted himself as the face of a new, vibrant Saudi Arabia, diversifying its economy away from reliance on oil and making some social changes.

But he has faced criticism including over the arrest of women activists, a diplomatic row with Canada and Riyadh’s involvement in the Yemen war during which airstrikes by the coalition Saudi Arabia leads have killed civilians.

Khashoggi, a royal insider who once advised former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal, never shied away from criticizing Saudi policies.

The Washington Post published a column it received from his assistant after he was reported missing in which Khashoggi condemns the crackdown on journalists by Arab governments and the failure of the international community to respond.

“As a result, Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate,” he wrote.

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