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Egyptian woman says she married Khashoggi in secret ceremony

An Egyptian woman says she married Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a religious ceremony in the United States this year, months before he was killed at a Saudi consulate in Turkey while seeking papers needed to marry a different woman.

The disclosure of the marriage, which Khashoggi appears to have kept hidden from his Turkish fiancee and even members of his family, adds to the complicated timeline of Khashoggi’s final months before he was killed by a team of Saudi assassins in October.

In an interview, the woman said she was coming forward to reveal her relationship with Khashoggi because “as a Muslim wife, I want my full right and to be recognized.”

She spoke on the condition that she be identified only by her first initial and last name, H. Atr, citing concern for her security and her job.

Atr provided The Washington Post with text messages that she and Khashoggi exchanged and photos of them together, including some from their wedding ceremony, which took place in June in a Washington suburb.

A longtime associate of Khashoggi who participated in the ceremony as a witness confirmed Atr’s account. He also spoke on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns.

Members of Khashoggi’s family declined to comment on the marriage. His Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said in a telephone interview that she was not aware of Khashoggi’s relationship with Atr and questioned her motives.

“Jamal never told me about this woman,” Cengiz said. “Why is she trying to change the picture people have of Jamal? What does she want? . . . I suspect that this is an attempt to discredit him and hurt his reputation.”

If she were to establish that she was Khashoggi’s legitimate wife, Atr could be in a position to claim part of any compensation that his family collects from the Saudi government. The legal status of Atr’s marriage to Khashoggi is unclear, however – neither appears to have obtained a marriage license.

Atr said that she has provided photos and other evidence of her marriage to Saudi and Turkish officials at a consulate in the Middle East. Some of those photos surfaced online this week in a series of posts to a Twitter account supportive of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Khashoggi was frequently critical of the Saudi government and royal family in columns for The Washington Post and other publications. The CIA has assessed that his assassination was ordered by Mohammed as part of an operation to silence him, according to people familiar with the matter.

Saudi officials have denied that Mohammed was involved in Khashoggi’s death and this week blamed the crime on lower-level officials, including five who could face execution for their alleged roles.

The accounts from Saudi authorities, who initially claimed that Khashoggi left the consulate in Istanbul unharmed, have shifted several times.

The United States has announced sanctions on 17 Saudis accused of having “targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States.” But the Trump administration has stopped short of accusing the crown prince, who has a close relationship with Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, of complicity.

Atr said she is 50 years old, resides in the Persian Gulf region and spent time with Khashoggi mainly when business travel brought her to the United States. She said they met nearly a decade ago at a media forum in the Middle East, but that their romantic relationship began over the past year. She said she saw him for the last time in early September, and that while he sometimes expressed concern that the Saudi government might retaliate against him, he did not believe his life was in danger.

“He never thought they would assassinate him,” she said. “He knew they could kidnap him and beat him, but he never thought they would go as far as to kill him.”

An imam who presided over the ceremony, Anwar Hajjaj, did not respond to requests for comment. He is listed online as a professor of Islamic Studies and Education at American Open University in Virginia.

Meanwhile, in Istanbul, dozens of mourners attended funeral prayers for Khashoggi on Friday, though his remains have not been found.

“They may have got rid of his body, but they have only spread his thoughts,” Yasin Aktay, a friend of Khashoggi and an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told a crowd gathered in the rain. “Now everyone is asking why he was killed.”

Similar memorials took place in Saudi Arabia, where mourners offered condolences to Khashoggi’s family.

 ©Greg Miller Souad Mekhennet for The Washington Post

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