The fiancee of the killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi has said he was worried about visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for his fateful appointment, but told her he did not think the authorities would dare to interrogate or arrest him in a foreign country.
“His local network in Turkey was very good as you know, his political network as well,” Hatice Cengiz told the Turkish broadcaster Habertürk in an interview on Friday. “He thought Turkey is a safe country and if he would be held or interrogated, this issue would be swiftly solved.”
The Washington Post columnist, who left Saudi Arabia for the US last year after growing fearful for his safety in his home country, was killed shortly after arriving on 2 October to pick up paperwork needed for the couple’s upcoming marriage.
Cengiz, who waited outside until about 1am on the day Khashoggi disappeared, said he had been treated well during an initial visit to the consulate the previous week.
Riyadh’s varied and changing explanations for what happened to the writer have been met with international outrage, sparking the biggest diplomatic crisis for the kingdom since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and throwing an unwelcome spotlight on the powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
Cengiz, a Turkish academic who became engaged to Khashoggi four months ago, said she has “found myself in a darkness I cannot express,” since her fiance was killed. She had asked US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who recently called her about the case, whether he had any news that would make her happy “but he said he didn’t”.
She has not received a condolence call from Saudi officials, Cengiz added.
Istanbul police said Cengiz had been placed under 24-hour police protection this week, without elaborating on the reasons why.
Riyadh said for the first time on Thursday that the evidence in the criminal investigation pointed to a “premeditated” killing of the dissident journalist.
Previously, Saudi authorities had said that Khashoggi died during a fight with Saudi officials carrying out a rogue extradition operation, and that his body was rolled up in a rug and disposed of by an unidentified third party. His remains have still not been found.
Turkish investigators, however,have alleged that Khashoggi was tortured before his death and his body dismembered with a bone saw by a 15-man hit team sent to kill him
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has used the case to exert pressure on his Saudi rival Prince Mohammed, whom many believe must at a minimum have been aware of the operation, which involved several members of his personal guard and other senior officials.
On Friday, Erdoğan made fresh demands for Saudi Arabia to disclose the location of Khashoggi’s body and identify who ordered his killing – a sign that Ankara is willing to keep up the pressure on the beleaguered kingdom.
Eighteen men arrested in Saudi Arabia “must know” who killed the journalist and where his remains were taken, Erdoğan said in a parliamentary address, adding that the person who “gave the orders” for the alleged murder must be brought to justice and the suspects extradited for trial in Istanbul.
Riyadh’s changing accounts of what happened have been “comic”, Erdoğan said, calling them “childish statements … not compatible with the seriousness of a nation state”.
“Who gave that order? If you want to eliminate the suspicion [about you], the key question is these 18 people,” Erdoğan said. “You know how to make people talk,” he added, in a reference to Prince Mohammed.
“But if you cannot make them talk, then hand them over to us. This incident happened in Istanbul. Let us put them on trial.”
Erdoğan also urged the Saudis to identify the “local collaborator” whom they say disposed of Khashoggi’s remains.
His pointed remarks come after he spoke to the heir to the Saudi throne on Wednesday about cooperating in the evolving diplomatic crisis.
The same day, Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke on the phone with Pompeo, his US counterpart, although Ankara did not comment on the content of the call.
Police in Istanbul are now focussing their search for the journalist’s remains on a well in the garden of the nearby consul general’s residence and woodland areas outside the city.
Saudi officials have delayed Turkish investigators several times, including blocking police from investigating the well on the Saudi consul general’s property.
There are several avenues of investigation that have yet to be explored, Erdoğan told members of his AK party in Friday’s address.
Riyadh is due to send the Saudi public prosecutor to Istanbul on Sunday to assist in the investigation.