The Turkish prosecutor investigating the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has left the Saudi consulate building in Istanbul. A team of around 10 Turkish police investigators had already left after a nine-hour search.

Pictures of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi are seen on a police fence during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul.
Pictures of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi are seen on a police fence during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul. (Reuters)

The Turkish investigation team entered looking into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Monday evening, and left nine to ten hours later, early on Tuesday.

A Turkish diplomatic source had earlier said that a joint Turkish-Saudi team would conduct a search of the consulate - the last place Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Riyadh, was seen before he vanished on October 2. Turkish officials say they believe he was murdered.

An acting chief prosecutor and a public prosecutor were assigned by Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office to carry out the probe at the consulate.

Also, specialists from the anti-terror branch and crime scene investigation units of Istanbul Provincial Security Directorate were included in the team.

Trump suggests "rogue killers"

US President Donald Trump suggested on Monday that “rogue killers” could be responsible for the Saudi journalist’s disappearance after a personal phone call in which Trump said Saudi Arabia’s King Salman denied any knowledge of what happened to the Saudi government critic.

Trump's statement came as CNN cited two sources as saying the Saudis were preparing to report that Khashoggi died as the result of a botched interrogation, while the Wall Street Journal said the kingdom was weighing whether to say that rogue operatives killed Khashoggi by mistake.

Trump dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Kingdom.  Pompeo is expected to stop in Turkey after his trip to Saudi Arabia, a National Security Council spokesman said on Monday.

Trump made the comment about "rogue killers" after what he said was 20 minutes on the phone with King Salman, the 82-year-old monarch who Trump said denied having any information about what had happened to Khashoggi.

Pressure grows on Riyadh to release evidence 

American lawmakers have threatened tough punitive action against the Saudis, as Germany, France and Britain jointly called for a "credible investigation" into Khashoggi's disappearance.

The foreign ministry official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations. Officials in Saudi Arabia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Turkish officials have said they fear a Saudi hit team killed and dismembered Khashoggi, who wrote critically of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The kingdom has called such allegations "baseless" but has not offered any evidence Khashoggi ever left the consulate.

Such a search would be an extraordinary development, as embassies and consulates under the Vienna Convention are technically foreign soil and must be protected by host nations.

Saudi Arabia may have agreed to the search in order to appease its Western allies and the international community.

'Severe punishment'

President Donald Trump has said Saudi Arabia could face "severe punishment" if it was proven it was involved in Khashoggi's disappearance. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia warned that if it "receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the kingdom's economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy."

"The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures or repeating false accusations," said the statement, carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The statement did not elaborate. However, a column published in English a short time later by the general manager of the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite news network suggested Saudi Arabia could use its oil production as a weapon. Benchmark Brent crude is trading at around $80 a barrel, and Trump has criticised OPEC and Saudi Arabia over rising prices.

Saudi media followed on from that statement in TV broadcasts and newspaper front pages on Monday.

'Don't Test Our Patience'

The Arabic-language daily Okaz wrote a headline on Monday in English warning: "Don't Test Our Patience." It showed a clenched fist made of a crowd of people in the country's green colour.

The Saudi Gazette trumpeted: "Enough Is Enough," while the Arab News said: "Saudi Arabia 'will not be bullied'."

The Arab News' headline was above a front-page editorial by Dubai-based real-estate tycoon Khalaf al Habtoor, calling on Gulf Arab nations to boycott international firms now backing out of a planned economic summit in Riyadh later this month.

"Together we must prove we will not be bullied or else, mark my words, once they have finished kicking the kingdom, we will be next in line," Habtoor said.

Investors' pull out of Saudi conference

Already, international business leaders are pulling out of the kingdom's upcoming investment forum, a high-profile event known as "Davos in the Desert." They include the CEO of Uber, a company in which Saudi Arabia has invested billions of dollars; billionaire Richard Branson; JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon; and Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford.

News that the CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, would pull out of the conference drew angry responses across the region.

The foreign minister of the neighbouring island kingdom of Bahrain, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, tweeted Sunday night that there should be a boycott of the ride-hailing app both there and in Saudi Arabia.

Late Sunday, Saudi King Salman spoke by telephone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Khashoggi. Turkey said Erdogan "stressed the forming of a joint working group to probe the case." Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, said King Salman thanked Erdogan "for welcoming the kingdom's proposal" for forming the working group.

The king also said Turkey and Saudi Arabia enjoy close relations and "that no one will get to undermine the strength of this relationship," according to a statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency

Prince Mohammed, King Salman's son, has aggressively pitched the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment. But Khashoggi's disappearance has led several business leaders and media outlets to back out of the upcoming investment conference in Riyadh called the Future Investment Initiative.

The Saudi stock exchange, only months earlier viewed as a darling of frontier investors, plunged as much as seven percent at one point Sunday before closing down over four percent. On Monday, Riyadh's Tadawul exchange traded up around 2.5 percent.

Concerns appeared to spread on Monday to Japan's SoftBank, which has invested tens of billions of dollars of Saudi government funds. SoftBank was down over seven percent in trading on Tokyo's stock exchange.

Khashoggi has written extensively for the Post about Saudi Arabia, criticising its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women's rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving.

Source: AP