Turkish crime scene investigators spent nine hours searching the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on Monday night and Tuesday morning, gathering evidence in the disappearance of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A team of about 10 Turkish investigators left the consulate at 5 a.m., followed 90 minutes later by a Turkish prosecutor and, a little later, a Saudi team, Reuters reports. The Turkish investigators carted away soil samples, a metal door from the garden, and other forensic evidence.
Turkish officials, who say they have proof that a Saudi team murdered and dismembered Khashoggi when he visited the consulate for marriage-related paperwork on Oct. 2, acknowledged the difficulty of finding useful evidence 13 days after the alleged crime.
VIDEO: A team of Turkish police investigators and prosecutors leaves the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after conducting an eight-hour night-time search pic.twitter.com/EiOQKr9NVD
— AFP news agency (@AFP) October 16, 2018
The Saudis agreed to let Turkey inspect the consulate only after Saudi King Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke Sunday. Still, "hours before the Turkish forensic team arrived, journalists photographed a cleaning crew entering the consulate, hauling buckets, mops, and what appeared to be bottles of cleaning solution," The Washington Post reports. "When the Turkish investigators entered the consulate, some wearing white protective gear, they 'smelled chemicals had been used,' according to two officials in contact with the investigators."
Also Tuesday morning, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Riyadh for meetings with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the behest of President Trump. The Saudis, who have denied involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance, are now planning to claim he was accidentally killed during a botched interrogation by a Saudi intelligence operative dispatched by the crown prince to question the mildly critical journalist or spirit him to Saudi Arabia, according to reports in The New York Times and CNN. Some U.S. officials fear the Turks will play along in exchange for Saudi loans. Peter Weber