The arrests were made on Monday as part of a counter-intelligence operation, a senior Turkish official said. One of the two men arrived in Turkey in October, days after journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul.

The arrests were made as part of a counter-intelligence investigation.
The arrests were made as part of a counter-intelligence investigation. (TRTWorld)

Turkey arrested two intelligence operatives in Istanbul on Monday who confessed to spying on Arab nationals on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, a senior Turkish official said on Friday.

One of the two men arrived in Turkey in October 2018, days after Khashoggi was murdered inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, the official said, adding the other arrived to help his colleague with the workload.

"We are investigating whether the primary individual's arrival in Turkey was related to the Jamal Khashoggi murder," said the official, adding the person has been monitored for the past six months.

"It is possible that there was an attempt to collect information about Arabs, including political dissidents, living in Turkey."

They were taken to a court on Friday to face possible charges following four days of questioning, AP reported, citing a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

They were later remanded into police custody, Anadolu Agency reported, citing judicial sources. 

One of the two suspected UAE spies, whose name has not yet been disclosed by Turkish authorities, is seen in this photo.
One of the two suspected UAE spies, whose name has not yet been disclosed by Turkish authorities, is seen in this photo. (TRTWorld)

The arrests were made as part of a counter-intelligence investigation. Turkish officials seized an encrypted computer located in a hidden compartment at what the official told Reuters was the spy ring's base in Istanbul.

The official, who requested anonymity, said statements by the detained men suggested their intelligence operation targeted political exiles and students.

One of the two suspected UAE spies, whose name has not yet been disclosed by the Turkish authorities, is seen in this photo.
One of the two suspected UAE spies, whose name has not yet been disclosed by the Turkish authorities, is seen in this photo. (TRTWorld)

"We have extensive evidence of the individuals' covert activities on Turkish soil," the official said, calling it an "airtight" case. "They also confessed to have been employed by the UAE's intelligence services."

The suspected spies said they had recruited informants and paid them for information, the official added.

A representative of the UAE's foreign ministry could not immediately be reached for comment at the weekend.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was murdered in the Saudi consulate on October 2, provoking an international outcry.

The CIA and some Western countries believe the Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, ordered the killing, which Saudi officials deny. 

The Saudi public prosecutor has indicted 11 unidentified suspects, including five who could face the death penalty on charges of ordering and committing the crime. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged the United States to put its weight behind the investigation into the killing of Khashoggi and not to set the matter aside because of its ties with Riyadh. 

TRT World 's Oubai Shahbandar reports from Istanbul. 

Source: Reuters