BEIRUT — A veteran journalist from Saudi Arabia who has become a sharp critic of the country’s leadership was detained Tuesday in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, according to his fiancée and a close friend.
The journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, entered the consulate at about 1:30 p.m. to obtain a document he needed to get married, his friend, the Turkish journalist Turan Kislakci, said in a phone interview.
After 9 p.m., more than five hours after the consulate had closed, his friend and fiancée were still waiting outside the consulate in the dark for Mr. Khashoggi to come out.
In a brief phone interview, his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, confirmed the story and said she was worried about him.
“I don’t have any more information than that,” she said.
Mr. Khashoggi’s apparent detention followed waves of arrests of Saudi clerics, intellectuals, activists and businessmen over the last year as the country’s day-to-day ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has sought to consolidate his control and stamp out dissent.
Mr. Khashoggi, who had been a consummate Saudi insider until he broke away last year, had expressed concern to a friend on Monday that he could be kidnapped and returned to Saudi Arabia if he visited the consulate.
While most of those arrested in Prince Mohammed’s crackdown were detained inside the kingdom, some were arrested in other Arab countries and forcibly repatriated to Saudi Arabia, where they are being held without clear legal charges. Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent women’s rights activist, was arrested on a highway in the United Arab Emirates and flown home to be jailed in Saudi Arabia.
There was no immediate response from the Turkish government.
Mr. Kislakci said he did not know why Mr. Khashoggi had not come out of the consulate.
“Why haven’t they let him go?” Mr. Kislakci asked. “What are they doing in the consulate? We don’t know.” He said that Turkish authorities had been informed and were following the case.
An employee who answered the phone at the Istanbul consulate late Tuesday, who declined to give his name, said that the consulate was closed and that he had no information.
When asked specifically whether Mr. Khashoggi had been detained in the consulate, he said, “We heard the same thing, but we don’t know.”
The Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
For decades, Mr. Khashoggi was one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent journalists. As a young man, he interviewed Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and he went on to cover successive Saudi kings. He was often seen as close to the Saudi government and counted on to champion its policies and ignore its scandals and abuses. At times, he served as both an official and unofficial adviser to senior Saudi officials.
But last year, as many of his friends were arrested and the already limited margins of freedom of expression inside the kingdom shrank, Mr. Khashoggi went into voluntary exile, dividing his time between the Washington, D.C., area, London and Istanbul and publishing articles that criticized the increasingly authoritarian rule of Crown Prince Mohammed. He frequently wrote op-ed columns for The Washington Post.
Those articles turned him into a pariah with the Saudi government and the defenders of Crown Prince Mohammed, who accused him of receiving cash from foreign governments to tarnish the kingdom’s reputation.
Mr. Khashoggi’s wife had remained in Saudi Arabia while he was no longer able to return freely. Their separation had led to a divorce, and he wanted to remarry to a Turkish woman.
To get married, he needed a document from the Saudi consulate certifying that his previous marriage had ended. So last week he made a surprise walk-in visit. The consular staff instructed him to return Tuesday at 1 p.m. to receive the document.
He left his cellphone outside with Ms. Cengiz, who had instructions to alert his friends if Mr. Khashoggi did not return, Mr. Kislakci said. A few hours later, when the consulate had closed and Mr. Khashoggi had not come out, Ms. Cengiz began making calls.
Last year Mr. Khashoggi wrote about his decision to flee the kingdom.
“I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice,’’ he wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot. I want you to know that Saudi Arabia has not always been as it is now. We Saudis deserve better.”
Follow Ben Hubbard on Twitter: @NYTBen.