Friends and colleagues of prominent Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi fear he’s been taken while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after not being seen since.
Khashoggi, who has been living in self-exile in the United States, entered the consulate’s premises at around 1pm (1000 GMT) in what seemed to be a routine visit to sort out paperwork, before disappearing, the Arabic-language Arab21 news website reported on Tuesday, quoting his fiance.
According to two Turkish officials the journalist remains inside the consulate, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
“According to the information we have, Khashoggi is still in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul,” one of the Turkish officials said.
The prominent columnist for the Washington Post has long criticised the Saudi government’s reform programme under the auspices of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
His fiancee – who requested anonymity – told the Post she accompanied him but waited outside and called the police when Khashoggi did not emerge after the consulate closed.
Turan Kislakci, a friend of Khashoggi’s who was also outside the consulate, told the newspaper, “I think 100 percent that he is inside.”
“We have been unable to reach Jamal today and are very concerned about where he may be,” Eli Lopez, the Post’s international opinions editor, said in a statement.
“It would be unfair and outrageous if he has been detained for his work as a journalist and commentator.”
Ali Shihabi, head of the Arabia Foundation in Washington which regularly supports Saudi policy, also expressed concern on Twitter about the reports.
Jamal and I have not seen eye to eye on many issues but having him go missing like this is awful and my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. https://t.co/zpIGvSUSJG
— Ali Shihabi علي الشهابي (@aliShihabi) October 2, 2018
Khashoggi, who once acted as an adviser to the Saudi royal family, fled Saudi Arabia in September of last year amid a crackdown on the kingdom’s intellectuals and journalists.
He told Al Jazeera’s UpFront in March there was no room left for debate in Saudi Arabia, with citizens rounded up and jailed for questioning the government’s policies.
“As we speak today, there [are] Saudi intellectuals and journalists jailed.
“Now, nobody will dare to speak and criticise the reforms [initiated by the crown prince],” he said, adding “it would be much better for him to allow a breathing space for critics, for Saudi intellectuals, Saudi writers, Saudi media to debate”.