Turkish authorities on Friday arrested two men who are suspected of illegally gathering intelligence for the United Arab Emirates, and are investigating whether one of the men has links to the murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, last year.
On October 2, 2018, a columnist for the Washington Post and critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Khashoggi, was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he had gone to collect documents for his planned wedding.
State-run Anadolu Agency (AA) reported that a Turkish court on Friday evening ruled to keep the two suspects in custody on charges of international, political and military espionage.
A senior Turkish official told Reuters that Turkey has been investigating whether the arrival of one of the suspects in Turkey in October 2018, days after Khashoggi was murdered, was related to the killing.
He added that Turkey had been monitoring the man for six months before the arrests were made in Istanbul on Monday.
The two men, who are believed to be intelligence officers, have reportedly confessed to conducting espionage, the official said.
An encrypted computer was seized by Turkish officials, as part of the counter-intelligence investigation, in a hidden compartment at what the official told Reuters was the spy ring’s base in Istanbul.
Khashoggi, who was living in the United States at the time, resisted pressure from Riyadh to return home after having written critically about the Saudi government and Crown Prince Salman.
The murder was described by Saudi officials as a rogue operation that went wrong, performed by a team that intended to return Khashoggi to Riyadh.
The Saudi government, which denied the killing at first, later conceded that it had, in fact, occurred. However, they claimed that the Crown Prince had nothing to do with the slaying of Khashoggi.
According to a Washington Post report on April 1, Saudi Arabia has given “million-dollar houses” and “five-figure monthly payments” to the four children of Khashoggi in an attempt to ensure that the family “continues to show restraint in their public statements.”
Saudi officials say the prosecution is seeking death penalties for five of the eleven suspects who are currently on trial for the slaying of Khashoggi.
On March 1, Turkey instructed Interpol to issue 20 red notices regarding the killing of the journalist.
Ankara’s efforts to pursue an international inquiry into the murder have stirred up friction between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.