WASHINGTON — The daughter of a former Saudi intelligence official said in an interview aired Friday night that the kingdom tried to lure her to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to discuss her family and eventually detained her and her father for a week.
The interview, which aired on ABC News, was the first public account by a family member of the Saudi man and the woman’s arrest in connection with the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The family member, who requested anonymity to speak about her family, said that when the couple arrived at the consulate for a medical appointment that was part of a family reunion, a Saudi agent “made several phone calls to different people to see if there was anybody who could bring Jamal or anybody who could talk to Jamal.”
Saudi Arabia immediately denied any wrongdoing by the son, Ahmad al-Taweel, and his wife, Hatice Cengiz, saying they were detained at the consulate for illegally entering the country and questioning the legality of their marriage.
In her interview, the daughter described her parents being “very high profile” in Saudi Arabia, telling ABC: “They worked on the intelligence side of Saudi Arabia, so they really had diplomatic clearance and that’s why they decided to go into the consulate.”
But the daughter, who lives in Washington, D.C., denied that the couple, both 32 years old, had any connection to Khashoggi.
“If he was this much of a threat, why didn’t he write, why didn’t he invite somebody else to write an article about him?” she said. “It makes no sense whatsoever.”
Saudi Arabia has said Khashoggi, who was living in the United States and writing for The Washington Post, left the consulate alive, but has not offered evidence. In an interview Thursday, the CIA concluded that Khashoggi’s killing was carried out with the knowledge of Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ABC News reported.
Saudi officials, in a televised address Thursday, said they will continue their investigation into the incident but disputed the CIA’s conclusion, saying Khashoggi had been killed by a rogue operation under the command of the deputy intelligence chief. “We reject the report by the U.S. intelligence agencies which reached this false conclusion,” Al-Taweel said Friday.
Al-Taweel, in the ABC interview, said the couple was in Turkey “to celebrate their new marriage, but they had nowhere to go.”
He claimed that the Saudi state intelligence agent, who went by the name Maher Mutreb, told them it would be best if they could go to the consulate to get some paperwork from the consulate for him and his cousin.
“Maher told the couple they couldn’t leave. They were told to wait at the consulate while he would go back and check on them later,” the daughter said. “In reality they spent a week and a half there.”
During that time, Mutreb “became very tough with my father. He would insult him. He would also threaten him and yell at him, and ask him how he can have lied to my father about a future marriage, because my father wanted to separate from him.”
But the relationship did not go further, the daughter said. “They just became much more distant from each other,” she said.
After 10 days in the consulate, Mutreb reportedly told the wife and daughter they were under arrest and were required to attend a court hearing.