Investigators were poised to re-enter the building before Riyadh rescinded its invitation to explore the scene of journalist's disappearance
Saudi authorities refused on Wednesday to allow Turkish police to continue investigating the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul from which Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared last week, according to Turkish sources close to the investigation.
Turkish officials have accused the Saudis of killing Khashoggi inside the building. Saudi authorities have denied the Turkish allegations and say that Khashoggi left the consulate soon after his meeting, without offering proof he did.
On Tuesday, Saudi officials gave three Turkish police investigators access to all parts of the consulate, excluding the nearby consul’s residence, according to the sources.
They conducted a preliminary investigation and stayed with Saudi consulate staff for about an hour and then left.
But on Wednesday morning, after Turkish pro-government media outlets reported the names, photos and details of 15 Saudis which they said were leaked by Turkish authorities, the Saudis changed their minds, according to the sources.
Turkish sources have also told Middle East Eye that three of the 15 Saudis who entered the country on the day Khashoggi vanished are from an elite unit called the "rough sword" which protects Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“They are delaying the search permit,” one of the sources told Middle East Eye.
Saudi diplomats in the kindgom’s embassy in Ankara phoned Turkish diplomats to let them know the investigation had been stopped because the 15 men were publicly accused without any evidence, including Khashoggi’s body.
Sources close to the investigation confirmed the names of the 15 suspects to MEE.
The Saudis asked what would the Turks do if they had been treated this way, and accused Turkey of giving the kingdom a bad reputation, the sources said.
Speaking to MEE after the investigation was halted, a Turkish source with direct information about the investigation said that the police are confident that the forensics they already have in their possession - including samples from the sewers in the consulate - will find evidence of crime.
Overnight, Turkish media outlets also reported that the 15 Saudis who entered the country around the time of Khashoggi’s appointment stayed at two hotels – the Wyndham Grand and the Movenpick – near the consulate.
CCTV footage of the purported suspects within the hotels and also at Ataturk airport were also released on Wednesday.
This video grab from CCTV footage obtained from Turkish news agency DHA shows a Saudi team suspected of involvement in Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance, at the airport in Istanbul on 2 October, 2018. (AFP)
According to the Turkish sources that spoke to MEE, the 15 Saudis checked into separate hotel rooms from which police have been able to obtain fingerprints, the sources said.
The police are investigating guests, particularly Arabs, who stayed at both hotels during the same time period, though many are thought to have been in Turkey for plastic surgery operations.
Turkish police forces have also expanded their investigation and are now reviewing footage from cameras in front of the Emirati and Egyptian consulates in Istanbul to see if there was any interaction with Saudi officials of interest, the sources said.