Apple Watch might solve mystery of missing Saudi dissident

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Apple Watch heart-rate monitor
Jamal Khashoggi's Apple Watch might be able to tell investigators if he's still alive.
Photo: Apple

A prominent critic of Saudi Arabia went into that country’s consulate in Istanbul last week and never came out again. Evidence of what happened to him might come from his Apple Watch.

The burning question the wearable potentially could answer: is Jamal Khashoggi still alive?

Khashoggi is a journalist who regularly criticizes his home country. He’s been living in Turkey where he believed his strong contracts in the government would keep him safe. But he wanted to get married, and for that he needed proof from Saudi Arabia that his divorce was final. So he visited the Saudi consulate on October 2, according to Reuters.

An Apple Watch lifeline

When he went in, Khashoggi left his phone with is fiancé outside the building, but was still wearing an Apple Watch.

“We have determined that it was on him when he walked into the consulate,” a Turkish security official told Reuters. But it’s not clear if the wearable will reveal any useful information. “Intelligence services, the prosecutor’s office and a technology team are working on this. Turkey does not have the watch so we are trying to do it through connected devices.”

Heart rate data from an Apple Watch on has been used in a murder trial, and could be critical here. However, as noted, Turkish authorities don’t have the actual Watch, just the phone it was connected to. And investigators aren’t making it clear if any data was transmitted from wearable to phone.

Saudi Arabia’s government has no explanation of what happened to Khashoggi, just saying that he left the consulate after his meeting.

Investigators want to know why 15 men flew for Saudi Arabia to Istanbul the morning of Khashoggi’s scheduled meeting, were in the consulate building the same time he was, then immediately left the country.