Ankara, Oct 3 : A prominent Saudi journalist known as one of the country’s most outspoken critic has gone missing after visiting its consulate in Turkey, raising concerns about his safety.
Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post, entered the Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon for a visit relating to filing a divorce before he can remarry, the Guardian reported on Wednesday.
“We don’t know if he is being detained, questioned or when he will be released,” the Post said.
His Turkish fiancee, who waited outside for him for 12 hours, said he had failed to come out and then she called the police.
She was accompanying him to the consulate but said she was not allowed to go inside with him. Khashoggi was also required to surrender his mobile phone.
Another close friend also said the 59-year-old journalist had not left the consulate, a claim disputed by a Saudi official. It was not known if Khashoggi was able to leave the mission or he was being held against his will or was taken elsewhere, reports say.
Qatar-based news outlet Al-Jazeera reported that Turkish police began a search for the missing writer.
Khashoggi has been living in self-imposed exile in the US 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,” said Jason Rezaian, a commentator for the Post.
“At each turning point, though, Jamal has offered readers of the Post insightful commentary and sharp criticism about the seemingly impenetrable country.”
The BBC said that Khashoggi served as an adviser to the Saudi royal family and was for many years seen as an insider, until he left more than a year ago amid a reported clampdown on press freedom.
With over 1.6 million followers on Twitter, Khashoggi is a prolific commentator in print and on television. He was famous for interviewing Osama bin Laden several times and also served as a media aide under Prince Turki al-Faisal, when the latter was Director General of the Saudi intelligence agency.
A US state department spokesperson said they had seen the reports from Istanbul and were “seeking more information at this time”.