Prominent Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi has gone missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday, the Arab21 news website reported, citing his fiancee.
Khashoggi, who has been living in self-exile in the United States, entered the consulate’s premises at around 1pm in what seemed to be a routine visit to sort out paperwork, before disappearing, the Arabic-language daily said.
Prisoners of Conscience, a Saudi Twitter page that covers the human rights of detainees in the kingdom, said it did not dismiss the possibility that Khashoggi’s sudden disappearance was an attempt to silence the writer, who has long criticised the government’s reform programme under the auspices of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“Pursuing activists sets a dangerous precedent that should not be tolerated!” it said on in a Twitter post.
The Saudi consulate, however, denied that Khashoggi had ever entered its building.
Arab21 said the author paid a visit to the consulate a week earlier but was told by officials at the time to return at a later date.
Prisoners of Conscience said on its Twitter page that the group holds “Saudi authorities (including the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul) fully responsible for the safety of Jamal Khashoggi”.
Sources told Al Jazeera that Turkish police had begun searching for the dissident.
Khashoggi, who 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 that 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 that “it would be much better for him to allow a breathing space for critics, for Saudi intellectuals, Saudi writers, Saudi media to debate.”