By Merve Aydogan
ANKARA (AA) – Three days before Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing he said Saudi Arabia does not arrest “dissidents” but those with “independent minds”.
Khashoggi, journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, has been missing since he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
BBC News on Tuesday published an off-air conversation with Khashoggi with a footnote, "We wouldn't normally broadcast an off-air conversation, but we've decided to make an exception, in light of the current circumstances."
Prior to an interview with BBC Newshour in London, he said that he does not think he would ever be able to go back to Saudi Arabia.
“See when I hear arrest of a friend who did nothing that is worth to be arrested, make me feel I shouldn’t go. I’m talking that friend of mine, who was arrested was not even talking — maybe he was talking critically over something in a dinner party. That’s what we are becoming in Saudi Arabia and we are not used to that. We never experienced this,” he said.
Recalling the arrest of Essam al-Zamel, a Saudi columnist and economist, Khashoggi told BBC: “Recently, a Saudi columnist, an economist, who was close to the royal court got arrest and that scared many people. Because here we are talking about somebody who is close to the government.
“The people who are arrested are not dissidents they just have independent minds.”
Stating that he does not call himself “an opposition” to Saudi Arabia, he said: “I always say I’m just a writer, I want a free environment to write and speak my mind. That’s what I do on Washington Post. They gave me a platform to write freely and I wish I had that platform in my home.”
Underscoring that Saudi Arabia is going through a “serious transformation” with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he quoted an English king: “What affects the people must be discussed by the people".
"So, this serious transformation that is happening is not discussed [with the people].
“The prince surprise us every couple of weeks, or months with a huge multi billion dollars project that wasn’t discussed in a parliament, wasn’t discussed in newspapers and the people just clap, say: 'we want more of it'.
"Things don't work like this."
Turkish police investigating the case of missing journalist had said in a statement Saturday that 15 Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and entered the consulate while Khashoggi was inside.
Istanbul prosecutors are investigating the incident, while the consulate said on Twitter that it was working in coordination with Turkish authorities.
Turkey on Monday said it expects "full cooperation" from Saudi authorities to locate the missing journalist.