Exactly a year ago, on Oct. 2, 2018, prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate building in Istanbul, to complete procedures related to his marriage, but he never exited from the building.
His fiancee Hatice Cengiz, was awaiting outside the consulate, excited to begin her new life with the Washington Post columnist. She, however, never saw him again.
The disappearance of Khashoggi received a fair amount of attention internationally in the past year. Thanks to meticulous investigations carried out by Turkish forensic units, Saudi Arabia ultimately, admitted to the murder of journalist. But the question still haunting investigators is, where is the dead body?
Over past one year, information has even surfaced in pieces the way he was killed. But the world is still awaiting information and an official announcement about the whereabouts of his remains.
A report prepared by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Agnes Callamard highlighted the circumstances, in which Khashoggi was killed. The report described it a case of enforced disappearance, and called on Saudi authorities to help in investigations, as the country was a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture. Saudi Arabia had ratified the Convention in 1997.
A joint Saudi-Turkish task force was formed to jointly investigate the disappearance of Khashoggi, following a 75-minute meeting between Saudi Attorney General Saud al-Mujeb and Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Irfan Fidan. Saudi authorities agreed to allow Turk investigators to search the consulate building.
While Turkish authorities were not allowed access to some parts of the building, investigators used robotic cameras to inspect the surrounding sewage network, in an effort to locate remains.
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into the allegations that Khashoggi was killed by a 15-member hit squad, occupying high offices in security and intelligence in Saudi Arabia. The included a security, an intelligence officer and a forensic science expert.
In a written statement, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office reported that Khashoggi was strangled and his body was dismembered.
Saudi Arabia admits execution of Khashoggi
Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor Shalaan al-Shalaan shared the results of the investigation at a press conference on Nov. 15 in Saudi capital Riyadh.
“One of the suspects broke the cameras in the consulate, they dismembered the body and took it out of the consulate and a police sketch of the local collaborator who received the body was reached,” Shalaan al-Shalaan said.
He also announced that Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor’s office had charged 11 out of 21 suspects, in relation to the murder.
Some media outlets released recordings, stating that Khashoggi’s body was being carried to the residence section of the consulate on Dec. 30.
Saudi authorities shared the information with Turkey that Jamal Khashoggi was strangled to death in Saudi consulate in Istanbul and his body was broke into pieces.
Saudi authorities, however, have not made any formal explanation so far on the fate of the body.
Was the body melt with acid?
Various claims were made that the hit squad which executed Khashoggi, melted his body in acid after dismembering it. It was also believed that they took body to Saudi Arabia and buried it at a certain place or destroyed it by burning it.
During the process, the question of whereabouts of the Khashoggi’s body became the prime focus of investigators.
The investigators, who were initially probing disappearances soon turned probe to murder, when Khashoggi’s death was confirmed by the Saudi authorities and the U.S. on Oct. 20, 2018. Now the questions on the fate of the body arose.
Activists, writers and journalists across globe, who are concerned about Khashoggi’s killing are also hunting to find the answer that everybody is worried about: “Where is Khashoggi’s body?”
‘Khashoggi willed to be buried in Madina’
On Oct. 20, 2018, Egyptian thinker and academician Sayfaddin Abdel Fattah criticized Saudi Arabia’s attitude on Khashoggi incident and asked: “Why did Saudi Arabia deny Khashoggi’s killing many times? Where the body? Why did the ‘brawl story’ came so late until two weeks after his missing?”
Syrian journalist Musa Omar also asked the whereabouts of the Khashoggi’s body, and recalled his will to be buried in Medina.
Lebanese journalist Najla Abu Mera and Yemeni journalist Hamdi al-Bakkari also said: “We want an answer, ‘where is the body?’”
Both Arab and world public opinion frequently repeated the question. In the confession by the Riyadh administration, the allegations of not knowing the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body lost credibility. In addition to his family and beloved ones, the international community is also waiting for the burial of body of Khashoggi, who was brutally murdered at the age of 60.
Khashoggi deserves a ‘dignified burial’
“It is obvious that he [Khashoggi] was killed but where, you have to show the body,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Oct. 26, 2018.
The head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, Turan Kislakci, asks for the body of Khashoggi, saying that the friends and family of the late journalist wants a burial and a grave.
A group of friends of the slain journalist Khashoggi have called on the Saudi authorities to hand over his body and punish those, who were behind the internationally condemned murder on Oct. 26, 2018.
Gathered in front of the Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in London, the group in a press statement demanded the punishment of the “real murderers.”
Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi deserves a “dignified burial,” so “please hand over his body,” Daud Abdullah, the director of Middle East Monitor, told Anadolu Agency on Oct. 30.
Asking for the body of Khashoggi and demanding a burial, Hatice Cengiz — the fiancee of the slain Saudi journalist — told U.S. press: “There is no explanation. This is unacceptable in Islam.”
Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Mohammed Abu Najila urged Saudi authorities to make public the whereabouts of the Khashoggi’s body.
U.S. State Department’s deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said on Nov. 1 that the remains of Khashoggi should be located and returned to his family for burial as soon as possible.
Turkey’s Erdogan penned an article on Nov. 2 — titled “Saudi Arabia still has many questions to answer about Jamal Khashoggi’s killing” for Washington Post. “At the very least, he deserves a proper burial in line with Islamic customs,” he said.
Water wells and tandoor oven raise suspicion
A police report on the killing of Khashoggi revealed some more details of the crime.
The 2018 annual report, published by the Istanbul Police Department, stated that two water wells and a tandoor oven which could be fired with natural gas and wood were found in the consulate.
The report emphasized that the temperature of the tandoor oven can be increased to a thousand Celsius (1832 F), destroying all the DNA.
On the day of the event, the killer team of 15 people who entered the consulate included a forensic expert from the Saudi Interior Ministry.
The 47-year-old expert Lieutenant Colonel Salah Mohammed A. Tubaigy studied his master’s thesis on DNA analysis from a bone.
The report noted that this person has the expertise to know whether there is DNA or not on rotting and burned bones.
Investigations carried out in the region revealed that after the killing of Khashoggi, 32-portion uncooked meat was ordered to the Consulate from a famous restaurant, according to the report.
“Unavoidably many more questions come to the mind… Was cooking meat in the tandoor oven part of the plans that they already made? Of course, these questions will be clarified. Investigations have not been finalized yet.”
Claims of burning body in oven, melting with special liquid
Some news reports that appeared in Turkey and elsewhere stated that Khashoggi’s body was put in plastic bags and transferred to the house of Saudi consul general, where it was burnt in a large oven, put in the garden of his house.
It is said hydrofluoric acid and special chemical residues were found in the consul general’s house and these findings show that Khashoggi’s body was completely dissolved.
Some other reports on the aftermath of the body said that forensic examination on the samples taken from the sewers of the Saudi Consulate General’s building suggested that Khashoggi’s body was made into a liquid-like jelly with special chemicals and it was poured into the sewage and was completely dissolved.
Some news reports suggested that the Saudi hit squad injected a chemical agent into Khashoggi’s body to create blood-clotting after killing him by strangling.
The reports mentioned that the method is used not to leave any blood traces or evidence at the consul general in case of a possible research. It also said Khashoggi’s body was dismembered soon after the injection of the agent and the Saudis destroyed it with chemical substances.
*Zehra Nur Duz, Sena Guler and Can Atalay contributed to this report from Ankara
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