Saudis ‘tried to lure’ ex-foreign minister’s daughter to Istanbul in October, says Saudi official’s daughter

The daughter of a Saudi former senior official says she believes the country was attempting to lure her to a consulate in Istanbul in late October 2017 in an attempt to grab her.

Speaking at a press conference in Istanbul on Thursday, Walaa Al Qahtani said that two of her family members attended a meeting with Saudi Embassy officials in London, who told them a surprise would be waiting for them when they arrived in Istanbul. They assumed the meeting was connected to a visa application.

“I received a call at the meeting, and I received a call from the consulate,” Al Qahtani said. “They told me to go by the consulate, which was surrounded by security personnel, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

“When I got there, I saw Saudi Security. There were five Saudi personnel that identified themselves as members of the security at the Saudi Embassy,” she said. “Their suits were very nice and they were smiling and friendly, and they were talking to me.”

She added: “I do not have a positive impression of them.”

Al Qahtani’s account adds new details to the unraveling of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. The crown prince has admitted that he knew of plans to abduct the journalist, but Al Qahtani’s statement suggests that the effort went further. Khashoggi was murdered in a premeditated killing, which Saudi officials have attributed to rogue operatives without offering any concrete evidence to support their assertions.

According to Al Qahtani, she and her brothers were among a group of Saudi officials in London to get visas to travel to Turkey and meet someone about “joint business ventures” with relatives in Istanbul.

Since the emergence of Al Qahtani’s account, Saudi media have called her a “false witness” who “lies” about “activities inside the consulate.” But Al Qahtani, who resigned as an adviser to the Saudi Public Investment Fund, told reporters that she was not a threat to Saudi Arabia and her account provided a more complete picture of the murder.

“I am a woman and I know how men are,” she said. “I have experience in the Middle East. This is not my first time in the case of the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. I have observed them before. I know how [the Saudi officials] think.”

Saudi Arabia has denied that anyone from the royal family — including King Salman — was aware of the killing. A U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report on the killing released in December claimed that at least one Saudi official “may well have been complicit in the planned murder” of Khashoggi, though it went on to say that it was not yet clear whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — seen as the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia — knew about the plan to kill the journalist.

For her part, Al Qahtani’s claim that her father was discussing some type of business venture with individuals in Istanbul, and that she was involved in some capacity with the effort, goes further than any other individual who has spoken out about the murder of Khashoggi.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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