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.
Vanished in Istanbul
He was in the consulate to acquire the necessary paperwork for a marriage licence, reports said.
His fiancée told the Washington Post she had waited outside the consulate until it closed, by which time Khashoggi had not returned.
Another friend, Turan Kislakci, told the newspaper that police were alerted and that by midnight there was still no sign of Khashoggi.
“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!”
Qatar-based news outlet Al-Jazeera reports that Turkish police have begun a search for the missing writer.
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 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 over 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 with in Afghanistan in the 1980s during the Soviet occupation – though he publicly rejected Bin Laden’s later ideologies and had fallen out of touch long before the 2001 attacks on the US.