Jamal Khashoggi: Saudi journalist vanishes in Istanbul

Jamal Khashoggi
Image caption Jamal Khashoggi has not been seen since lunchtime on Tuesday

A prominent Saudi journalist known as a fierce critic of his country’s policies has vanished after visiting a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post, entered the consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon.

Khashoggi went to complete “routine paperwork”, the Post said, and has not been heard from since.

“We don’t know if he is being detained, questioned or when he will be released,” the newspaper said.

His fiancée accompanied him to the consulate but was not allowed to go inside with him. Khashoggi was also required to surrender his mobile phone – which is standard practice in some embassies and consulates.

Confusion reigned over his whereabouts on Wednesday, as one Saudi official told Reuters news agency that the reports of Khashoggi’s disappearance were false, and that he had left the consulate shortly after arriving.

His fiancée, outside the building, rubbished that claim, pointing out that no-one had seen him – while a spokesman for Turkey’s president said Khashoggi remained inside the building and that Turkish officials were in contact with their Saudi counterparts over the situation.

Police alerted

Khashoggi was in the consulate to acquire the necessary paperwork for a marriage licence, reports said.

His fiancée said she had waited outside the consulate until it closed, by which time Khashoggi had not returned.

“I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know if he’s inside or if they took him somewhere else,” she told Reuters.

Another friend, Turan Kislakci, told the Washington Post that police had been alerted.

“I think 100% that he is inside,” he said.

In the absence of any reliable information about his disappearance, a notification on Khashoggi’s website now declares: “Jamal has been arrested!”

Ties between Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been strained in the past year by a dispute over Qatar.

Turkey shipped food and basic goods to Qatar after Saudi Arabia and several other Arab states severed economic and diplomatic links with the emirate, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Sharp criticism

Khashoggi has been living in self-imposed exile in the United States, and is an established critic of the Saudi government – particularly the reform plans championed by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

“With every supposed reform comes a wave of fresh arrests, prison sentences and increasingly repressive behaviour,” the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian said.

“At each turning point, though, Jamal has offered readers of the Post insightful commentary and sharp criticism about the seemingly impenetrable country.”

Formerly an editor of the Al-Watan newspaper and of a short-lived Saudi TV news channel, Khashoggi has also been a contributor to BBC programmes about Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

At times, he served as an adviser to the Saudi royal family, and was for many years seen as an insider – until he left more than a year ago amid a reported clampdown on press freedom.

He is also known for his close association with the young Osama Bin Laden, with whom he travelled extensively in Afghanistan in the 1980s during the Soviet occupation – though he publicly rejected Bin Laden’s later ideologies and had lost touch with him long before the 2001 attacks on the US.

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