Turkey said Friday that it has lost two people suspected of spying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates and is investigating whether the suspicions are connected to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, according to a statement from Turkey's state-run news agency.
The statement did not name the suspects, say when they were arrested or provide any other details about their activities. A senior Turkish official quoted by the Reuters news agency said the suspects, both men, were arrested Monday and had confessed to spying for the UAE, a regional rival to Turkey.
The official said that the suspects arrived in Turkey in October and that it was “possible” they were attempting to collect information about Arab political dissidents living in the country, which has become a gathering place for exiles from the UAE and other Persian Gulf states, as well as from Syria and Egypt.
The UAE’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Turkish government spokesman did not reply to a message seeking more information on the arrests.
Turkey has become embroiled in a vicious dispute among the gulf monarchies that has pitted its ally, Qatar, against the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Among other complaints, Saudi and Emirati leaders have bristled at the opposition camp's support for Islamist movements in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said Friday that the Istanbul prosecutor's office has charged the suspects with "political and military espionage" and "international espionage." They were expected to appear before a judge later Friday.
The connection between the arrests and the Khashoggi killing,
if any, is unclear. Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and contributing columnist for The Washington Post, had focused his criticism on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A team of Saudi agents accused of killing Khashoggi in the kingdom's consist in Istanbul on Oct. 2 returned to Saudi Arabia on a private jet that briefly stopped in the UAE, flight records show.