Supporters of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi called for justice a year after his death and a UN investigator said Saud al-Qahtani, a key adviser to the kingdom’s crown prince, should be put in the dock.
Eleven Saudi officials are on trial in Riyadh for the killing of Khashoggi, a former royal insider turned critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which took place inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 2018.
The trial is being held behind closed doors but six sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters more than one of the defendants had mentioned Qahtani’s name.
Asked to comment, UN rapporteur for extrajudicial executions Agnes Callamard said she could not confirm their accounts but that if people were prepared to name him in court, she welcomed it.
“If he appears to become or to be a person of interest as per the proceeding of the trial, then, of course, the next logical step must be to bring him in the trial,” she said, noting that his name had already been mentioned by the Saudi prosecutor.
“While I will welcome calling him as a key witness, I think that is still very far from where he should be, which is behind the dock as one of the accused,” Callamard told Reuters ahead of a ceremony just yards from the consulate door which Khashoggi entered shortly after 1 pm on October 2 last year.
He was dead within minutes, Turkish officials say.
The Saudi public prosecutor said last November that Qahtani had discussed Khashoggi’s activities before he entered the Saudi consulate with the team which went on to kill him.
The prosecutor said Qahtani acted in coordination with deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Asiri, who he said had ordered Khashoggi’s repatriation from Turkey and that the lead negotiator on the ground then decided to kill him.
Both men have been dismissed but while Asiri is on trial, Qahtani is not.
The government communications office did not respond to a request for comment. Reuters has been unable to reach the public prosecutor or Qahtani.
“He was mentioned by the Saudi prosecutor, who however did not indict him, did not charge him, even though by his own words the prosecutor acknowledged that Saud al-Qahtani had called on the team to bring back Mr Khashoggi because he was a national security threat,” Callamard said.
So just for that reason alone, he should have been charged.
The Trump administration has pressed Riyadh to show “tangible progress” toward holding to account those behind the killing before the one-year mark, a senior administration official has said.