Above- Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi (Photo by AFP)
Turkish authorities have summoned Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Ankara over the disappearance of prominent Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi after he visited the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul.
A Turkish diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Adel Serajedin Merdad was called in by the Foreign Ministry on Thursday.
The report comes a day after Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul insisted that Khashoggi left the building before disappearing, directly contradicting Turkish officials who say they believe the writer is still inside.
“The consulate confirmed that it is carrying out follow-up procedures and coordination with the Turkish local authorities to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after he left the consulate building,” the consulate said in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Ankara told Turkish officials that he had no information about Khashoggi, broadcaster NTV reported on Thursday.
The ambassador also told Turkish Foreign Ministry officials during talks at the ministry that he would let officials know once he obtained information, NTV said.
It said Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kiran told the ambassador that the issue “should be cleared up immediately.”
A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Wednesday night that authorities believed the journalist was still there.
“According to the information we have, this person who is a Saudi citizen is still at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. We don’t have information to the contrary,” Ibrahim Kalin said.
Khashoggi’s fiancée, who asked that her name be withheld, said he entered the consulate at around 1 p.m. local time (1000 GMT) on Tuesday, as she accompanied him but waited outside.
The unnamed woman, who is a Turkish citizen, called police when Khashoggi did not emerge at 5 p.m., after the consulate had officially closed.
The rights group Prisoners of Conscience, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page that it did not dismiss the possibility that Khashoggi’s sudden disappearance was an attempt to silence the writer.
The Arab21 news website reported that the author paid a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week, but was told by officials at the time to return at a later date to complete an application related to a family matter.
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 September 2017, when he left Saudi Arabia over fears of the Riyadh regime’s crackdown on critical voices.
نحمّل السلطات السعودية (بمن فيهم السفارة السعودية في اسطنبول) المسؤولية الكاملة عن سلامة الكاتب #جمال_خاشقجي، و نعلن رفضنا لأي من أساليب الدولة البوليسية (وعلى رأسها جرائم الخطف) في التعاطي مع أصحاب الرأي والفكر الحر!!
Saudi Arabia has recently stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.
Saudi officials have also intensified security measures in the Shia-populated and oil-rich Eastern Province.
Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with Saudi forces beefing up security measures across the province.
Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.
In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, an outspoken critic of the policies of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif in 2012.