Photo reveals ‘murder’ clue
JAMAL Khashoggi thought he'd be safe in Turkey.
The 59-year-old Saudi journalist had been living in exile in the United States for more than a year, where he wrote a Washington Post column that frequently criticised his country's crackdown on dissent and foreign policies.
In Turkey, at least, he had friends in high places. He went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the afternoon of October 2, where he had booked a brief appointment.
He never came out.
The mysterious case of Khashoggi's disappearance has gripped the world, with foreign news outlets covering every update, and western nations urging a thorough investigation into how he vanished.
Officials are now investigating an unlikely source for insights - his Apple Watch.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF JAMAL KHASHOGGI
Khashoggi was last seen walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, at 1pm on October 2, according to CCTV footage obtained by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.
The Post contributor, who has penned articles critical of some of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's policies in the Arab and Western press, hasn't been seen since.
Turkish government sources said police believed he was killed inside - claims dismissed by Riyadh as "baseless".
While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded Saudi Arabia prove their assertion that the journalist left the consulate, he has so far refrained from giving credence to claims that Khashoggi is dead, saying he will wait for an official probe.
The journalist has been a vocal critic of Riyadh's intervention in the war in Yemen, and once compared the young prince to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Post column.
Analysts say the diplomatic tiptoeing by both Saudi Arabia and Turkey is a sign they fear the case could stoke increased tensions, cautious of further straining relations in the midst of power plays stemming from overlapping interests in the region.
"The only way to explain the hesitation on the part on Riyadh and Ankara not to quickly announce what they think is happening is because they both fear escalating the situation unnecessarily," said Khalil Jahshan, executive director of Arab Center Washington.
"This is serious, this is a violation of a country's sovereignty, yet neither side can talk because of the national security and political concerns. So until they resolve that we aren't going to know the details," he added.
COULD APPLE WATCH PROVIDE A CLUE?
Investigators are now looking to another source for clues - Khashoggi's wrist.
The journalist was wearing his black Apple Watch when he went into the consulate, which was connected to a mobile phone held by his fiance.
"We have determined that it was on him when he walked into the consulate," a security official told Reuters. "Intelligence services, the prosecutor's office, and a technology team are working on this. Turkey does not have the watch so we are trying to do it through connected devices."
Tech experts say the watch could provide data such as his location and heart rate. For example, a sudden spike and drop in the heart rate data could indicate the journalist has met a grim fate.
Investigators who studied the footage also noted a black Mercedes left the consulate a few hours after Khashoggi arrived, along with two other cars headed for the airport. At a turn-off point, the Mercedes suddenly turned and went in an opposite direction.
The GPS radio in the Watch may be able to indicate whether Khashoggi was inside the Mercedes, and where it was headed.
But this information depends on a number of factors - the model of the watch, whether it's connected to the internet, and whether it's close enough to an iPhone to synchronise.
Reuters noted Turkey does not have the watch, suggesting it may have been lost or destroyed.
Some tech experts say the device may not yield much insight regardless.
According to Tech Crunch, a third-generation Apple Watch does not support cellular connections in Turkey. The watch would have had to be connected to a known Wi-Fi network inside the consulate, which is unlikely, or close enough to synch with his iPhone using Bluetooth.
Even if Khashoggi's watch data was still synched to his phone, accessing this information would require a passcode.
DONALD TRUMP URGED TO ACT
US President Donald Trump faces mounting pressure from concerned American politicians, but he said he's not yet willing to limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world's largest arms purchasers, with most of them coming from the US.
Mr Trump reiterated he wants answers about what happened to Khashoggi, but said he could not justify sacrificing jobs and income generated by the arms deal.
"That would not be acceptable," he said in the Oval Office overnight. "They are spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs."
The Saudis will "take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else. I think there are other ways. If it turns out to be as bad as it might be, there are certainly other ways of handling the situation."
He reiterated his concern about Khashoggi's fate. "We don't like it," he told reporters. "We don't like it even a little bit."
US senators wrote a letter to the president on Wednesday demanding an investigation.
Under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, such a letter compels the White House to report to Congress within 120 days with a determination about whether human rights abuses occurred, and whether sanctions should be applied.
Stern-faced senators including those in Mr Trump's Republican Party signalled that arms sales could be a way to punish Riyadh.
Bin Salman continues to deny that the disappearance had anything to do with the Saudi kingdom. "I assure you that the reports that suggest that Jamal Khashoggi went missing in the consulate in Istanbul or that the kingdom's authorities have detained him or killed him are absolutely false, and baseless," he said earlier in the week. "Our aim is to chase every lead to uncover the truth behind his disappearance."
- with wires