Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), along with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) are voicing concern over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, has written critically about the Saudi royal family and is known for his intimate knowledge of the family’s dynamics. According the Post’s editorial board, Khashoggi went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to fill out “routine paperwork” when he vanished. The Saudi government maintains Khashoggi left the consulate, but his fiancee denied that he has. The Post left a column blank on its Opinion page Friday to draw attention to his disappearance.
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The Saudi consulate in Istanbul released a statement Wednesday saying they are cooperating with Turkish police in the investigation while reiterating that Khashoggi had left the consulate.
Corker, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has personally brought up the issue with the Saudi ambassador to the United States and asked the consulate in Istanbul to turn over video footage, according to a statement from his office. The statement said Corker’s office continues to work on the case.
Murphy and Coons, who both sit on the Foreign Relations committee, each tweeted out to the Saudi government calling for Khashoggi’s whereabouts, with Murphy tagging the Saudi Embassy in Washington.
“Saudi Arabia needs to provide an answer – now – about what happened to Washington Post columnist #JamalKhashoggi. No one has seen him since he entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul on Tuesday,” Murphy tweeted Friday.
On the House side, Connolly, who sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, echoed Murphy’s concern.
“I am deeply concerned by reports that Jamal Khashoggi, renowned journalist and VA resident, has disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. I call on the Saudi and Turkish governments to ensure his safety and freedom. My office is following this matter closely,” Connolly tweeted Thursday.
Khashoggi has a history of sharp commentary on the Saudi royal family, particularly Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has paraded around the world advocating a progressive vision for the insular kingdom. The crown prince famously imprisoned several of his own relatives last year, and has locked up advocates and journalists in the country — moves Khashoggi has openly criticized as hypocritical to the prince’s message of modernity.
Khashoggi, who himself grew up in the gilded halls of the Saudi elite, moved to the United States last year to be able to write freely about the Saudi regime.
The lawmakers joined a chorus of concern and outrage over Khashoggi’s disappearance, coming from fellow journalists and foreign policy experts. Elliott Abrams, who served as deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush, compared Khashoggi’s disappearance to Soviet tactics and wrote that it illustrates that Saudi Arabia remains an autocratic monarchy.
“Release Khashoggi, or the reputation of the current Saudi government will be harmed irreparably,” Abrams wrote in a blog post for the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday.
The State Department is also following the situation, a department spokesperson said in a statement. The spokesperson deferred further inquiries to the Turkish and Saudi governments.
The Washington Post published an editorial Thursday in both English and Arabic expressing concern over Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“The crown prince has been all over the United States preaching his vision of a more modern Saudi society, breaking out of the stale old religious codes and practices, opening up to foreign entertainment and investment,” the editorial said. “If he is truly committed to this, he will welcome constructive criticism from patriots such as Mr. Khashoggi. And he will do everything in his power to ensure that Mr. Khashoggi is free and able to continue his work.”