Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Turkey has been summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry over the reported disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a ministry official told CNN.
Khashoggi, a well-known reporter and critic of the current Saudi leadership, has been missing since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon, according to his fiancée – who asked not to be named – and two other sources familiar with the event.
Turkey’s presidential office spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Wednesday that Khashoggi remained inside the building, contradicting a Saudi consulate statement that said that the journalist had left the premises on Tuesday.
He went to the consulate with his fiancée to conduct paperwork that would allow him to be married, according to his fiancée and two other sources familiar with the event.
His disappearance comes amid a wave of arrests of Saudi critics of the kingdom’s leadership, steered by young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The crackdowns have targeted clerics, journalists, academics and activists, some of whom were detained outside Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this year, women’s rights advocate Loujain al-Hathloul was arrested in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi and deported to Saudi Arabia, where she has been jailed for months.
Khashoggi, once considered the ultimate Saudi insider, left the country in 2017, escaping conditions he described as “unbearable” in a Washington Post opinion piece. He has been sharply critical of bin Salman’s consolidation of power over the years and his intolerance of those “who dare to express opinions contrary to those” of the leadership.
Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate said Wednesday that it was investigating reports of Khashoggi’s disappearance, according to the kingdom’s official Saudi Press Agency.
“The Consulate General of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul stated that it was following-up on the media reports of the disappearance of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi after he left the building of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul,” SPA reported.
“The consulate confirmed that it was carrying out follow-up procedures in coordination with the Turkish local authorities to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after departing the Consulate,” it added.
But his fiancée told CNN that she had been waiting for him outside the consulate. He entered the building on Tuesday 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 to secure his release.
Eli Lopze, the international opinions editor at The Washington Post, where Khashoggi is a contributing writer, has also said that he has been unable to reach him.
“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?” his fiancée told CNN on Wednesday.
“What is he eating? What is he drinking? Does he deserve this? … He is not a terrorist. He is an analyst and a journalist.”