October 6, 2018 / 3:01 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 3-Turkey investigates disappearance of Saudi journalist, vows to find him

(Adds adviser’s comments, visit to consulate)

ANKARA, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Turkish prosecutors have begun investigating the disappearance of prominent Saudi commentator Jamal Khashoggi, who has been missing for four days after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, and Ankara has vowed to uncover his whereabouts.

Khashoggi, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Washington for the past year fearing retribution for his critical views on Saudi policies, entered the consulate on Tuesday to secure documentation for his forthcoming marriage, according to his fiancée, who waited outside. He has not been heard of since.

Since then, Turkish and Saudi officials have offered conflicting accounts of his disappearance, with Ankara saying there was no evidence that he had left the diplomatic mission and Riyadh saying he exited the premises the same day.

On Friday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Saudi authorities would allow Turkey to search the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul for Khashoggi. He also criticized Turkey’s crackdown following a 2016 failed coup against President Tayyip Erdogan.

On Saturday, Yasin Aktay, Erdogan’s AK Party adviser and friend of Khashoggi, told Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera: “We demand a convincing clarification from Saudi Arabia, and what the crown prince offered is not convincing.”

He also said what happened to Khashoggi was a crime and those responsible for his disappearance must be tried, Al Jazeera said.

Human rights groups have called on Saudi Arabia to verify Khashoggi’s whereabouts. Human Rights Watch called on Turkey to deepen its investigation into the case, saying if Saudi Arabia had detained Khashoggi without acknowledging it, his detention would constitute an enforced disappearance.

Saudi Arabia’s consul-general in Istanbul opened up his mission to Reuters on Saturday to show that Khashoggi was not on the premises, and said talk of his abduction was baseless.

AK Party spokesman Omer Celik said that authorities would uncover the whereabouts of Khashoggi and the details of his disappearance through the investigation.

“A journalist disappearing in such a way is something a confident country like Turkey will look at sensitively. The condition of the lost journalist, details on him and who is responsible for this will be uncovered,” Celik said.

Khashoggi is a familiar face on political talk shows on Arab satellite television networks and used to advise Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States and Britain.

Over the past year, he has written columns criticising Saudi policies towards Qatar and Canada, the war in Yemen and a crackdown on dissent which has seen dozens of people detained. (Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Additional Reporting by Sarah Dadouch, Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ros Russell, William Maclean)

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