Alwaght- Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi who disappeared after entering Riyadh consulate in Turkey’s Istanbul has been flown to Riyadh, Lebanon’s Al Akhbar newspaper reported.
The Lebanese daily cited an unidentified source as saying Saudi Arabia had informed Turkey that Khashoggi was currently in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Khashoggi, a journalist critical of the country's crown prince, entered the consulate's premises on Tuesday in what seemed to be a routine visit to sort out paperwork, before disappearing.
However, the Arab source that spoke to Al Akhbar said Khashoggi had been taken out of another entrance to the consulate in a white vehicle in coordination with a Turkish security official.
He was then transferred to the airport before being flown to the kingdom, the newspaper added.
Meanwhile, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman denied speculations that Riyadh had taken Khashoggi, stressing that Turkey could search the kingdom’s Consulate in Istanbul for the journalis.
“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,” bin Salman said in a Bloomberg interview published Friday.
He claimed that Khashoggi had left the building not long after he entered earlier this week, alleging, “If he’s in Saudi Arabia, I would know that.”
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. He left Saudi Arabia that year over fears of the Riyadh regime’s crackdown on critical voices.
He reached the consulate on Tuesday to secure documentation for a forthcoming marriage, according to his fiancée, who waited outside.
Ankara says there was no proof he left the mission.
Human rights bodies and journalist rights action groups have raised the possibility of “forced disappearance” as the journalist remains unaccounted for.
“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.
Sophie Anmuth, head of the Middle East desk for Reporters Without Borders, called on both governments to ensure Khashoggi reappears quickly. “Until otherwise demonstrated, he is still inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and the Saudi authorities are responsible for his safety and well-being,” she said in a statement.
Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, told Reuters he had been concerned about a crackdown on dissent in the kingdom, but assumed he was safe outside the country. Turan Kislakci, a friend who heads the Arab Turkish Media Association, said that Khashoggi received assurances from Saudi officials before his visit that he could enter safely.