Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi ‘disappears after consulate visit’

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 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.

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.”

Sources told Al Jazeera that Turkish police had begun searching for the dissident. 

“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.”

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”.

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