Khashoggi explainer: All you need to know about the case

Jamal Khashoggi died in what it said was a “fistfight” inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. (Photo credits: AP)Jamal Khashoggi died in what it said was a “fistfight” inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. (Photo credits: AP)

By Rishabh Bhatnagar, Manasi Pathak

Story highlights
1. Khashoggi, an exiled Saudi journalist, was reported missing after his visit to the Saudi consul in Istanbul, on October 2
2. Saudi officials declared him dead only on October 19, bowing to global pressure
3. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States are now up in arms


Nearly 20 days have passed since the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Saudi Arabian journalist, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. However, his disappearance and eventual death under murky circumstances has raised a series of questions across the global political sphere.

Though very little is confirmed about his disappearance or what happened inside the consulate where he was last seen, Khashoggi’s reputation as a critic of the Saudi government is well documented.

Here is what is known about Khashoggi and how his work may hold clues to a deepening mystery.


Who was Jamal Khashoggi?

Khashoggi, 59, was a Saudi Arabian journalist who wrote for The Washington Post. He had been a foreign correspondent in the 1980s and 1990s, according to his website. Though he was a Saudi citizen, he moved to the United States in 2017. He began living in exile in the U.S. after he was barred from writing or appearing on television in his home country. It was said that Khashoggi was living in ‘self-exile’ and ‘could face arrest upon returning home due to his writing.’

What happened to him at the Saudi consulate?

We’re not sure. Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate on October 2 after he was asked to return during his visit on September 28, when he had gone to obtain documents certifying that he had divorced his ex-wife, so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée.

“Jamal was hardly concerned ahead of his second visit because he did not believe that something bad could happen on Turkish soil,” his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, wrote in the Washington Post.

The prevailing theory is that he was captured, interrogated and killed inside the consulate. Evidence of his killing had not yet been made public, however.

Why would his work make him a target?

Khashoggi had been sharply critical of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, and the country’s king, Salman. He was said to be vocal against the human casualties in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and censoring intellectuals and critics like himself. He was also barred from writing after criticizing President Donald Trump at one point.

What do the authorities have to say?

The words keep flowing but they lead to no definitive answer. The past 17 days have seen the kingdom’s story rapidly changing, with Riyadh continually adjusting its account of events in accordance with growing evidence and global outrage.

For more than two weeks, Saudi Arabia consistently denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate. But in the wee hours of October 20, state television reported the journalist had in fact died in the consulate after a fight.

A Saudi official claimed Khashoggi had died in a chokehold after resisting attempts to return him to Saudi Arabia. His body was then rolled in a rug and given to a local “co-operator” to be disposed of. A Saudi operative then reportedly donned his clothes and left the premises. The authorities announced the arrest of 18 Saudi nationals and dismissal of two senior officials.

On the other hand, Turkish officials say Khashoggi was tortured and killed on the premises by a team of Saudi agents and that his body was then removed. They say they have audio and video evidence to support this claim – but these have not yet been revealed yet. Unnamed Turkish officials have told various US sources that Khashoggi was killed within two hours of arriving and then dismembered.

What’s happening now?

US President Donald Trump sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Riyadh to handle the situation and keep up relations with the world’s largest oil producer. His visit, however, didn’t prove to be successful as Saudi’s royal court reportedly refused to take the blame and continued to deny any involvement in the happenings inside the consulate that day.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted Saudi Arabia in a speech at a party meet on Tuesday, October 23. He said that the murder was “meticulously planned’’.

“Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a ferocious murder,” he said. “This kind of brutality is against the collective human conscience.” Erdogan also called on the King of Saudi Arabia for the 18 Saudi suspects linked to Khashoggi’s death be tried in Istanbul.

In the aftermath, the ongoing Future Investment Initiative (FII) being hosted by Saudi Arabia that was due to feature 150 high-profile speakers from 140 firms has also been affected. Around 40 participants have pulled out due to the mystery behind Khashoggi’s death. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin, IMF Chief Christine Lagarde and top companies such as JP Morgan and Siemens are some of the high profile names that have withdrawn their participation.