Saudi journalist disappears from consulate in Turkey

Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.         Source Associated Press

Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Source Associated Press

The comments further deepen the mystery surrounding what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, who had been living in a self-imposed exile in the US while writing columns critical of the kingdom and its policies under upstart Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"I love working with him", Prince Mohammed said in a recent interview with Bloomberg published on Friday.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman said US$35 billion (S$48 billion), split between 40 per cent cash and 60 per cent assets, had been transferred to the government so far out of an expected US$100 billion.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said on Wednesday Turkey believed Khashoggi was still inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, challenging the Saudi account.

Trump made Saudi Arabia his first stop on his maiden worldwide trip as president past year.

Suspicions about Riyadh's involvement in the disappearance are heightened by a number of similar incidents, including the surprise resignation of the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, past year while he was visiting Saudi Arabia.

He left Saudi Arabia that year over fears of the Riyadh regime's crackdown on critical voices.

Last year, in the wake of mounting arrests, Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia for Washington, D.C., and was living in self-imposed exile. Turkey summoned the Saudi ambassador Thursday over the writer's disappearance. It called on Turkey to deepen its investigation into the case.

"The burden of proof is on Saudi Arabia to produce evidence for its claim that Khashoggi left the consulate alone, and that Saudi agents have not detained him", said New York-based Human Rights Watch's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson.

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Khashoggi has been missing since he entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul after midday on Tuesday.

"Where is Jamal?" Hatice said.

Yemeni activist and 2011 victor of the Nobel Peace Prize, Tawakkol Karman, hit out at the Saudi authorities, saying she believed Khashoggi "was kidnapped in this gangster's den that is supposed to be a consulate".

Meanwhile, supporters of the missing dissident Saudi journalist have participated in a rally, organized by the Turkish-Arab Media Association (TAM), outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, calling for his "release".

The consulate said it was working with the Turkish government to "uncover the circumstances" of his disappearance.

Khashoggi has been a vocal critic of some of the crown prince's policies toward Qatar and Canada, as well as the Saudi-led intervention in the Yemen conflict.

Turkey has said it believes he remains inside the building, while a Saudi official said Mr Khashoggi filled out his paperwork and then "exited shortly thereafter".

"If, as it claims, Saudi Arabia truly wishes to transition to a more open society, it will have to accept the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press", wrote Ravi R. Prasad, the institute's head of advocacy. All public protests are banned in the kingdom, as are political parties.

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