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Friends fear for safety of prominent Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi

An undated picture shows prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
An undated picture shows prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — Friends and relatives of Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran journalist from Saudi Arabia who has recently become a vocal critic of the kingdom’s leadership, said they were worried about his safety on Tuesday after losing contact with him while he was visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi entered the consulate around 1 p.m., according to his fiancee, who said she accompanied him but waited outside. The fiancee, who asked that her name be withheld, called police when Khashoggi did not emerge at 5 p.m., after the consulate had officially closed.

By midnight, there was still no sign of him, according to Turan Kislakci, a friend of Khashoggi’s who stood outside the consulate.  “We have talked with some Turkish authorities and the police,” he said. “I think 100 percent that he is inside.”

Spokesmen for the Turkish and Saudi foreign ministries did not respond to messages seeking comment on Khashoggi’s possible whereabouts.

Khashoggi, a prominent commentator on Saudi affairs who writes for The Washington Post’s Global Opinions section, has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since last year, when he left Saudi Arabia over concerns that he would be arrested or prevented from traveling. 

“We have been unable to reach Jamal today and are very concerned about where he may be,” The Post’s international opinions editor, Eli Lopez, said in a statement.  “We are monitoring the situation closely, trying to gather more information. It would be unfair and outrageous if he has been detained for his work as a journalist and commentator. Jamal is a great writer and insightful political observer, deeply committed to the open exchange of ideas; we are honored to have his point of view be part of our Global Opinions. We hope that he is safe and that we can hear from him soon.”

Opinion: Post contributor and prominent Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi feared missing in Turkey

 Khashoggi, who was trying to obtain documents related to a marriage license, had initially visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Friday, his friends said.  He went to the consulate and left without incident that day, they added.  

After traveling to London over the weekend, he returned to Istanbul on Monday and called the consulate Tuesday morning.  He was told to visit at 1 p.m., his friends said.  

Over the past year, Khashoggi has written extensively about the growing influence of Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince, and been critical of some of Mohammed’s policies, including a campaign of arrests targeting perceived opponents and dissidents.  

After Saudi authorities arrested a group of women’s rights activists in May, Khashoggi wrote that the “crackdown has shocked even the government’s most stalwart defenders.”  

In a column for The Post last month, he called on Saudi Arabia to use “its clout and leverage”  to end the war in Yemen.

Zeynep Karatas in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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