Swiss photo at the centre of Khashoggi disappearance row

The dissident Saudi journalist, who lives in the US, has been missing since October 2. Keystone

A photo allegedly taken at Istanbul airport and used in a war of words over the disappearance of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was actually taken at Geneva airport in 2016, has learned. 

This content was published on October 16, 2018 - 08:44
Paula Dupraz-Dobias

Khashoggi disappeared on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul. Turkish authorities say he was killed by a team of 15 men who arrived on two private jets from Saudi Arabia. 

An image of a jet on sunny tarmac against a backdrop of snow covered peaks is being used in a war of words in the Turkish and Saudi media. It was first used in Turkish media, including the pro-government outlet SabahExternal link

The image of the plane was also republished by Saudi media to disclaim links between Riyadh and Khashoggi’s disappearance. A presenter on Saudi Channel 24 commented on October 10 that the Saudi jet in question could not have been in Istanbul at the time because of the snow-capped peaks in the backdrop. 

“What’s funny is that there is snow on the top of the picture and we are in the month of October,” he read from a pro-government Twitter feed by Munther Al-Sheikh Mubarak, a Saudi blogger. 

The image was reposted many times on Twitter by various people. Here is one example:

The image was actually shot in March 2016 by Jean-Luc Altherr, an avid photographer of planes, who works for Geneva Airport. He is also listed as a contributor to Zurich-based Cockpit magazine. 

Madeleine Von Holzen, spokesperson for Geneva Airport, confirmed to that the photo had been taken by Altherr, but during his free time, as a spotter. 

She added that “this picture was used by media without the authorisation of Mr. Altherr”, in spite of a copyright mention on his Flickr account, where it was posted.

Meanwhile UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on Tuesday for the immunity of all sites and persons suspected in Khashoggi's disappearance to be lifted. 

And Reuters reports that head of Crédit Suisse Tidjane Thiam will join several other top executives bowing out of a Saudi investment conference later this month amidst uproar
over the disappearance of Khashoggi.

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