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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Fiancée asks Trump to help Post's missing Saudi contributor

So far there has been no public evidence of Jamal Kashoggi walking out of Saudi consulate in Istanbul

A man holds a placard reading "Where is Jamal Kashoggi ?" during a demonstration in support of Jamal Khashoggi, in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. AFP
A man holds a placard reading "Where is Jamal Kashoggi ?" during a demonstration in support of Jamal Khashoggi, in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. AFP

The fiancée of a missing Saudi contributor to The Washington Post on Wednesday asked President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump to "help shed light" on his disappearance.

The request on behalf of Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared a week ago while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, comes as Turkey said it was preparing to search the diplomatic post.

While Saudi officials haven't acknowledged the pending search, it would represent an extraordinary development in a case that has Turkish officials saying they fear Mr Khashoggi was killed there. Though Riyadh has dismissed the allegation as "baseless," their possible consent to a search shows the increasing international pressure the kingdom faces over Mr Khashoggi's disappearance.

Writing on Wednesday in the Post, Khashoggi's fiancée Hatice Cengiz acknowledged the writer first visited the consulate on September 28 "despite being somewhat concerned that he could be in danger." He later returned October 2 after being promised needed paperwork so the two could be married.

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Read more:

Jamal Khashoggi: From semi-official spokesman to self-imposed exile

Turkey asks to search Saudi consulate where Jamal Khashoggi was last seen

Turkey's Erdogan hopes case of missing journalist ends 'positively'

Saudi Arabia 'ready to welcome' Turkish search of Istanbul consulate for missing journalist

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A surveillance video image surfaced on Tuesday showing Mr Khashoggi walking into the consulate in Istanbul's upscale 4th Levent neighbourhood. So far, there's no public evidence showing he ever walked out, nor any released by Turkish officials about why they believe Mr Khashoggi was killed.

"At this time, I implore President Trump and first lady Melania Trump to help shed light on Jamal's disappearance," Ms Cengiz wrote. "I also urge Saudi Arabia, especially King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to show the same level of sensitivity and release CCTV footage from the consulate."

She added: "Although this incident could potentially fuel a political crisis between the two nations, let us not lose sight of the human aspect of what happened."

Mr Trump responded on Wednesday by saying the US is "demanding" answers from Saudi Arabia and said he plans to invite Ms Cengiz to the White House. He told reporters in the Oval Office that he has a call in to Ms Cengiz and said nobody knows exactly what happened and expressed hope that Mr Khashoggi is not dead.

Saudi Arabia denies involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi, a former insider in Saudi government circles who has been living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for the past year after fleeing a crackdown on intellectuals and activists in the country.

Saudi's ambassador to the US on Tuesday said said that reports of Mr Khashoggi being detained and killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul are "absolutely false and baseless".

Rumours and leaks on what happened to Mr Khashoggi’s fate are “malicious" and “outrageous” Prince Khalid bin Salman said. "Jamal has many friends in the Kingdom, including myself, and despite our differences, and his choice to go into his so-called 'self-exile', we still maintained regular contact when he was in Washington."

Mr Khashoggi, who wrote critically for the Post about Prince Mohammed's rise to power, also sought to become a US citizen, Ms Cengiz wrote. He had been in a self-imposed exile in the US since last year, fearful of the prince's low tolerance for criticism.

President Trump, who took his first overseas trip as US president to the kingdom and whose son-in-law Jared Kushner has close ties to Prince Mohammed, said he had not yet talked to the Saudis about Mr Khashoggi.

"But I will be at some point," he said on Tuesday, without elaborating.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy also said on Tuesday that Saudi authorities have notified Ankara that they were "open to cooperation" and would allow the consulate building to be searched. It's unclear when such a search would take place.

Such a search would be an extraordinary development, as embassies and consulates under the Vienna Convention are technically foreign soil and must be protected by host nations. Saudi Arabia may have agreed to the search in order to appease its Western allies and the international community.