A prominent Saudi journalist and critic of the current Saudi leadership has been missing since he entered his country’s consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday, according to his fiancée and other sources familiar with the events.
Jamal Khashoggi went to the consulate to obtain paperwork that would allow him to get married. He entered the building at 1:30 p.m. and has not left since, Turan Kislakci, the head of the Turkish Arab Media Association and a friend of Khashoggi, told CNN.
Turkish police have reportedly examined surveillance footage from the area and say there is no sign of Khashoggi leaving the consulate, Kislakci added. The Turkish Arab Media Association said members would remain outside the consulate to keep up the public and media pressure.
His fiancée, who asked not to be named, told CNN she has been outside the consulate since he entered the building.
“I do not know if Jamal is inside. I want to know where Jamal is. Did they detain him? Did they kidnap him? Is he imprisoned?” said his visibly tired fiancée.
“What is he eating? What is he drinking? Does he deserve this? … He is not a terrorist. He is an analyst and a journalist,” she added, choking up with tears.
The Saudi government said claims of Khashoggi’s disappearance were “false.” “Mr. Khashoggi visited the consulate to request paperwork related to his marital status and exited shortly thereafter,” a Saudi official told CNN.
With the rise of its young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has taken a hard line against dissent. Authorities have staged frequent crackdowns on human rights defenders, clerics, women’s rights advocates and journalists. In August, the kingdom passed a series of punitive measures against Canada – including cutting trade relations – after the Canadian foreign ministry tweeted a statement criticizing the arrest of activist Samar Badawi.
Khashoggi, best known for his interview with terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, was a royal court insider before he left the country for Washington. He began to contribute opinion pieces that were critical of bin Salman’s policies to The Washington Post.
He said his government ordered him to stop using Twitter after he wrote a tweet cautioning against the leadership’s enthusiasm about Donald Trump, who was then President-elect.
“So I spent six months silent, reflecting on the state of my country and the stark choices before me. It was painful for me several years ago when several friends were arrested. I said nothing. I didn’t want to lose my job or my freedom. I worried about my family,” he wrote in a September 2017 Washington Post opinion piece entitled “Saudi Arabia wasn’t always this repressive. Now it’s unbearable.”
“I have made a different choice now. I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice. To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison.”
He was named a contributing writer at The Washington Post in January 2018.
Khashoggi’s personal website now displays the banner: “Jamal Khashoggi has been arrested at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul!”
According to his fiancée, he ‘had some concerns’ about requesting the paperwork but decided to visit the consulate as the couple planned to settle down in Turkey.
“We have been unable to reach Jamal today and are very concerned about where he may be,” said Eli Lopez, international opinions editor at The Washington Post. “It would be unfair and outrageous if he has been detained for his work as a journalist and commentator.”
CNN’s Sarah El Sirgany, Nada Al Taher, Schams Elwazer and Hamdi Elkhshali contributed to this report.