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,” 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 to pick up paperwork needed for the couple’s upcoming marriage on 2 October.
Cengiz, who waited outside until about 1am on the day that Khashoggi disappeared, said he had been treated well during an initial visit to the consulate the previous week.
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 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.
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.
“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 for the first time on Wednesday about cooperating in the evolving diplomatic crisis.
The same day, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke on the phone with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo, although Ankara did not comment on the content of the call.
Police in Istanbul are now focussing the 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, but have not made progress so far.
Saudi investigators have delayed their Turkish counterparts inquiries several times, notably blocking police from investigating a 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 sending the Saudi public prosecutor to Istanbul on Sunday to assist the investigation.