Prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul four days ago. Riyadh has denied he's being held, and has said Turkish officials are welcome to search the building.
Supporters of journalist Jamal Khashoggi gathered outside the Saudi consulate in Turkey's largest city on Friday to demand answers about his whereabouts.
The 59-year-old, who works as a columnist for The Washington Post, was last seen entering the diplomatic mission in Istanbul on Tuesday. Turkish government officials say they believe he is still inside, but the consulate insists he left the premises that same day.
The Turkish-Arab Media Association (TAM) organized a small rally in front of the building on Friday to call for "his immediate release."
Crown prince: Turkey welcome to search
"As journalists, we are worried about the fate of Jamal. We don't know whether he is alive or dead," TAM head Turan Kislakci said. "The statements by Saudi Arabia on the subject are far from satisfactory."
In an interview with Bloomberg, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said the journalist was not at the consulate and added that he was prepared to allow Turkish authorities to search the building.
"The premises are sovereign territory, but we will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do. We have nothing to hide," he said.
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. The journalist, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 2017 fearing arrest, had gone to the consulate to collect an official document for his planned marriage. According to his Turkish fiancee, he entered the building and never came out again.
Human rights groups have urged Riyadh to shed light on Khashoggi's whereabouts.
"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 Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch.
Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Khashoggi's failure to emerge from the consulate "is a cause for alarm," given the Saudi authorities' pattern of "quietly detaining critical journalists."
Meanwhile, in a show of support, the Post published a blank space where the journalist's column would usually appear in its Friday edition.
Saudi Arabia is ranked 169th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index, a few places behind Turkey.
nm/cmk (AFP, Reuters)