Turkish prosecutors have begun investigating the disappearance of prominent Saudi commentator Jamal Khashoggi, who has been missing for four days after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkish broadcaster NTV reported on Saturday.
Khashoggi, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Washington for the past year fearing retribution for his critical views on Saudi policies, entered the consulate on Tuesday to secure documentation for a forthcoming marriage, according to his fiancée, who waited outside. He has not been heard of since.
Since then, Turkish and Saudi Arabian officials have offered conflicting accounts of his disappearance, with Ankara saying there was no evidence that he had left the diplomatic mission and Riyadh saying he exited the premises the same day.
On Friday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Saudi authorities would allow Turkey to search the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul for Khashoggi.
Human rights groups have called on Saudi Arabia to verify Khashoggi’s whereabouts, with Human Rights Watch calling on Turkey to deepen its investigation into the case, saying if Saudi Arabia had detained Khashoggi without acknowledging it, his detention would constitute an enforced disappearance.
It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors in Istanbul had launched the investigation on Saturday or earlier. The prosecutor’s office was not immediately available for comment.
Khashoggi is a familiar face on political talk shows on Arab satellite television networks and used to advise Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States and Britain.
Over the past year, he has written columns criticising Saudi policies towards Qatar and Canada, the war in Yemen and a crackdown on dissent which has seen dozens of people detained.