The fate of a journalist
Saudi Arabia is starting to look like an old-fashioned Arab dictatorship
It has been over a week since Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and government critic, walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork for a marriage.
No one has seen him since.
Turkish officials say that he was killed by a team of Saudi assassins, who dismembered his body, on orders from the top of the royal court.
The Saudis retort that Mr Khashoggi left the building of his own accord.
If so, when?
Are there witnesses or written records?
Why is there no security-camera footage?
And why did 15 Saudis fly in on private jets just before he disappeared, and leave shortly after?
The Saudis must provide answers, or the world will assume the worst.
If it transpires that Mr Khashoggi has been killed, whether deliberately or in a botched kidnapping, it will strengthen the sense that Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler, is more of a rogue than a reformer.
He has locked up thousands of activists.
He detained a sitting prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, for two weeks in November.
His long arm has already reached abroad.
In March a women's-rights campaigner, Loujain al-Hathloul, was detained in Abu Dhabi, whisked to Saudi Arabia and, later, thrown in jail.
In September a Saudi satirist based in London claimed that he was beaten by goons who had been sent from Saudi Arabia.
Murdering a critic on foreign soil would be an escalation of a dismal trend.
Unlike past Saudi royals, who allowed some debate and often sought to mediate between competing interests, Prince Muhammad rules as if only he has the answers.
His brutish handling of even mild critics is overshadowing more admirable policies, which include curbing the religious police, letting women drive and encouraging them to work.
As his regime starts to resemble an Arab nationalist dictatorship—
socially liberal but centralised, paranoid and built on fear—
his promise of a new, tolerant Saudi Arabia is receding.