Turkish officials say they believe that the Saudi opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Mr Khashoggi went missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday. He went to the consulate to obtain a document certifying he had divorced his ex-wife. His fiancee said she waited outside for 11 hours, but he did not come out.
She said Mr Khashoggi was required to surrender his mobile phone, which is standard practice in some diplomatic missions. He told her to call an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he did not return.
The head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, Turan Kislakci, told the New York Times that Turkish police officers providing security for the consulate had checked their security cameras and did not see the journalist leave on foot. But he added that diplomatic cars had been seen moving in and out.
Saudi Arabia has denied the accusations, saying it is “working to search for him,” but the incident is likely to plunge Turkish-Saudi relations into an unprecedented crisis.
On Wednesday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg News that Turkish authorities were welcome to search the building because “we have nothing to hide.” The prince said the Saudis were “very keen to know what happened to him”, saying his understanding was that Mr Khashoggi left “after a few minutes or one hour.”
The relationship between Riyadh and Ankara is already strained over several issues, including Turkey’s support for Qatar in the blockade by Saudi Arabia, its closeness to the Muslim Brotherhood, and its rapprochement with Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran.
The 59-year-old journalist is one of the most prominent critics of the Crown Prince, who has unveiled reforms praised by the West while carrying out an apparent crackdown on dissent. Human and women’s rights activists, intellectuals and clerics have been arrested – meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is waging a war in Yemen that has triggered a humanitarian crisis.
A former editor of the al-Watan newspaper and a short-lived Saudi TV news channel, Mr Khashoggi was for years seen as close to the Saudi royal family. He served as an adviser to senior Saudi officials.
After several of his friends were arrested, his column was cancelled by the al-Hayat newspaper and he was allegedly warned to stop tweeting, Mr Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia for the US, from where he wrote opinion pieces for the Washington Post and continued to appear on Arab and Western TV channels.