Alleged plot surrounding missing Saudi journalist didn't factor in his fiancée, says Lawrence Wright

Speculation is rife about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but his close friend Lawrence Wright says that whoever is behind it has underestimated the missing man's fiancée.

Hatice Cengiz stood outside embassy until midnight, says friend of missing journalist

Hatice Cengiz has written in the Washington Post to highlight the case of her missing partner, Jamal Khashoggi. (Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press)
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Lawrence Wright thinks that whoever is behind the disappearance and possible death of Jamal Khashoggi didn't factor in one thing: the Saudi journalist's fiancée.

"If it's true that the Royal court ordered the execution … they could imagine, when they're sitting in Riyadh, how this would be done," said Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and close friend of Khashoggi.

"He would be brought in, he would be killed, he'd be disposed of, and they could say: 'Well, he left the embassy, we don't know what happened to him,'" Wright told The Current's guest host Michelle Shephard.

"What they didn't count on was his girlfriend."

Cengiz and a friend outside the consulate in Istanbul, the day after Khashoggi entered the building. (Osman Orsal/REUTERS)

Khashoggi was once a government insider in the Kingdom, but became a frequent critic of the royal family. The Washington Post columnist had been living in exile as a U.S. permanent resident when he walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Turkish media published images Wednesday of an alleged 15-member Saudi "assassination squad" along with the allegation that Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, which is Saudi sovereign territory. The kingdom dismisses the allegation as "baseless."

The Current asked for comment from the Saudi embassy in Canada but did not receive a response.

Khashoggi went to the consulate to obtain paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who lives in Istanbul.

"She had apparently tried to go into the embassy and they told her to wait outside," said Wright, who met Khashoggi in 2003 while working in the Kingdom.

She stayed at the embassy until midnight, he said, but because she is a woman "they simply took no notice of her."

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been missing since Oct. 2 when he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. 3:11

Cengiz has drawn international attention to the case, writing in the Washington Post on Wednesday, and imploring U.S. President Donald Trump to intervene. U.S. senators have called on Trump to impose sanctions, but on Thursday he said that cutting billions in arms sales to the Kingdom would hurt U.S. workers and "be a very tough pill to swallow."

"They just didn't consider her being important," Wright said.

"I think in some respects their own prejudices blinded them to the consequences of their actions."

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page.


Written by Padraig Moran. This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith, Ines Colabrese and John Chipman.