Friends of a prominent Saudi dissident are worried for his wellbeing after he visited the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul Tuesday, and hasn’t emerged since.
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi regime who has lived in self-imposed exile in Washington D.C. since last year, entered the Saudi embassy at about 1pm Tuesday seeking documentation certifying his divorce, according to reports.
His Turkish fiancé, who requested not to be named, told The Washington Post and The Guardian that she waited for him outside the embassy until it closed at 5 p.m., then called the police when he hadn’t reappeared.
Another friend who had waited for him outside the embassy, Turan Kislakci, told The Post the journalist hadn’t emerged at midnight. “I think 100 percent that he is inside,” he said.
The journalist’s website featured a post claiming Khashoggi “has been arrested at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul!" and called on supporters to use a hashtag to pressure Saudi authorities for his release. Many on Twitter, where Khashoggi has more than 1.6 million followers, joined the campaign.
Saudi authorities have not commented on the matter, while the U.S. State Department says it is seeking more information.
Once an adviser to the Saudi royal family, Khashoggi fled his homeland last September amid concerns he could be detained in a crackdown on dissidents. He has since been a regular contributor to The Washington Post’s Global Opinions section, writing columns critical of Saudi policies including the war in Yemen, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s repressive campaign against dissenters.
“We have been unable to reach Jamal today and are very concerned about where he may be,” the newspaper’s international opinions editor, Eli Lopez, said in a statement. “It would be unfair and outrageous if he has been detained for his work as a journalist and commentator.”
Cover image: Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, on December 15, 2014. (MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)