A frequent companion of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince entered the country’s consulate in Istanbul just hours before Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident writer, disappeared inside, according to a time-stamped photograph published on Thursday by a pro-government Turkish newspaper.
The photograph of the companion, who has been previously identified as Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, is one of the most striking pieces of evidence to date linking Mr. Khashoggi’s Oct. 2 disappearance and possible death to the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
The Saudi authorities have denied any involvement but have provided no information on Mr. Khashoggi’s fate and say they are investigating as well.
The Turkish newspaper, Sabah, also showed photographs of Mr. Mutreb outside the Saudi consul general’s home, leaving a Turkish hotel with a large suitcase, and leaving the country from Istanbul’s international airport — all later that day.
Time stamps on the photographs, which Sabah said had been taken from closed-circuit television, showed Mr. Mutreb entering the Saudi consulate at 9:55 a.m., at the consul general’s home at 4:45 p.m., leaving an Istanbul hotel at 5:15 p.m., and at the airport at 5:58 p.m. to leave Turkey.
Mr. Khashoggi, 60, a Washington Post columnist whose disappearance has caused an international uproar and deeply tarnished the Saudi government’s image, entered the consulate at about 1:15 p.m. He was never seen leaving.
The Turkish government has been leaking details in the domestic press that suggest that a 15-member hit team from Saudi Arabia, including Mr. Mutreb, assassinated Mr. Khashoggi inside the consulate, severing his fingers and decapitating and dismembering him.
On Tuesday, The New York Times linked Mr. Mutreb and at least three others among the 15 suspects to Crown Prince Mohammed’s security detail. Mr. Mutreb had previously been seen in photographs of the crown prince’s three-week visit to the United States this year.
The Khashoggi case has presented an enormous quandary to the Trump administration, which has embraced Crown Prince Mohammed as a valued ally ever since President Trump took office.
In a new sign of tension, Mr. Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said Thursday he would not attend a high-profile investment conference in Saudi Arabia next week that had been promoted by the crown prince. Mr. Mnuchin joined an exodus of other prominent financial and business figures who have canceled plans to attend.
Despite growing evidence linking the Saudi monarchy to Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, Mr. Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, have sought to defend their measured response to the crisis and have stressed the value of the United States-Saudi relationship. Mr. Pompeo visited Saudi Arabia and Turkey earlier this week.
On Thursday, after he briefed Mr. Trump at the White House, Mr. Pompeo told reporters that he had emphasized to the Saudis how seriously the United States was taking the Khashoggi case.
“They made clear to me that they, too, understand the serious nature of the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi,” Mr. Pompeo said in brief remarks. “They also assured me that they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all of the facts surrounding Mr. Khashoggi and that they’ll do so in a timely fashion.”
Mr. Pompeo, a former director of the C.I.A., referred to Mr. Khashoggi’s “disappearance” despite reports from American intelligence agencies, which are increasingly convinced that Mr. Khashoggi was killed.
The secretary of state also reminded reporters of America’s long “strategic” relationship with the Saudis, dating back to 1932, and he said the kingdom remained an “important counterterrorism partner.”
In another sign of growing pressure on the Saudis, a coalition of human-rights and press-freedom advocacy groups said Thursday that Turkey should seek an independent United Nations investigation into Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible killing.
The coalition included the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders.
“U.N. involvement is the best guarantee against a Saudi whitewash or attempts by other governments to sweep the issue under the carpet to preserve lucrative business ties with Riyadh,” Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement.
It was unclear at best, however, when or if a United Nations inquiry would be undertaken.
Asked about that possibility at a daily briefing, Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for Secretary General António Guterres, suggested it was premature.
Mr. Guterres believes in “taking things one step at a time,” Mr. Dujarric said.
The secretary general also had made clear to both Saudi Arabia and Turkey that the facts surrounding the Khashoggi case need to come out, Mr. Dujarric said.