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UN expert meets officials in Turkey as Khashoggi investigation begins

UN special rapporteur met with Turkish ministers on Monday, the first day of an investigation into journalist's killing
Activists have called for an independent investigation into Jamal Khashoggi's killing (Reuters/File photo)

A United Nations-appointed judicial expert has met with two Turkish goverment officials as part of a visit to Turkey to investigate the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, met Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul on Monday, both officials confirmed on Twitter.

She will be in Turkey until Sunday to meet with senior politicians and others, including Istanbul's chief prosecutor, Irfan Fidan, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Callamard confirmed last week that she would head up an "independent international inquiry" into the murder of Khashoggi, a Saudi government critic and prominent columnist who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

The news came amid repeated calls from Ankara for an international probe into the journalist's killing, which sparked global outrage.

"We see how those who spoke of freedom of the press are now covering this up after seeing money," Cavusoglu said last week, as quoted by Anadolu.

"We, however, will go until the end," he said, vowing that Ankara would help get to the bottom of what happened.

On Monday, Anadolu said Callamard was accompanied to Turkey by Helena Kennedy, a British barrister and member of the UK House of Lords, and Duarte Nuno Vieira, a professor from the University of Coimbra in Portugal who specialises in forensic medicine.

Callamard is expected to report her findings to the UN Human Rights Council in June, AFP reported last week.

Spotlight on MBS

Khashoggi's murder has put the spotlight on Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who has been accused of ordering the journalist's assassination. The CIA also concluded last fall that the crown prince, also known as MBS, was behind the murder.

Saudi officials have denied MBS had any knowledge of the crime, however, and a trial opened earlier this month in the Gulf kingdom for 11 people suspected of being involved.

The hit squad that murdered Khashoggi included security officials close to bin Salman, however, and media reports have implicated two of his closest allies.

UN special rapporteur to lead international inquiry into Khashoggi murder
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Human rights groups and other observers also say the Saudi investigation into the killing has not met international standards and they have called for a thorough probe into the slaying.

It remains unclear whether Callamard and her team have requested access to Saudi Arabia as part of their investigation.

Last week, the head of Human Rights Watch called for a more comprehensive UN investigation into Khashoggi's murder, saying special rapporteurs such as Callamard are independent and unpaid experts.

"We are at a kind of moment at stalemate with the Khashoggi case. There is a lot of evidence pointing to this being something ordered by the Saudi Crown Prince," Kenneth Roth told AFP news agency.

"The next step we are all looking for is a UN investigation. And [UN Secretary General Antonio] Guterres is desperate to avoid this because he doesn’t want to offend the Saudis."