Turkish journalist detained by Saudis over alleged Khashoggi remarks released, source says

Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi speaks at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor in London

ANKARA (Reuters) -A Turkish journalist who was detained in Saudi Arabia last week over alleged comments he made regarding the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been released, a Turkish diplomatic source said on Thursday.

Kurtulus Demirbas was taken into custody last week in the Saudi city of Taif, where he had been covering Turkey's U-19 football team, over alleged remarks about Khashoggi's killing, the private Anka news agency and other Turkish media reported.

It was not immediately clear what Demirbas said about Khahoggi's murder or how and where he did so.

The source said Turkey's foreign ministry had been informed of the incident on Monday and immediately demanded information from Saudi authorities. The Turkish consul general in Jeddah visited Demirbas at the facility in Taif where he was being held.

"As a result of our initiatives, our citizen Kurtulus Demirbas was released from the holding cell in Taif where he was being held," the source said, adding that the consul general was closely following the matter and regularly informing Demirbas' family.

Khashoggi's murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 significantly damaged Turkey-Saudi ties, with Ankara at the time accusing top Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, of having orchestrated the killing.

However, ties between the two Middle East powers have improved since 2021 after Turkey dropped accusations of Saudi state involvement in the murder as part of a bid to repair relations with estranged rivals, including Riyadh.

U.S. intelligence concluded in 2021 that the crown prince approved an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. The Saudi government has denied any involvement by the crown prince and has maintained that Khashoggi's killing was carried out by a rogue group.

(Reporting by Huseyin Hayatsever, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Burcu Karakas; editing by Mark Heinrich)