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Saudi Arabia: Human rights group criticises acquittal of officials in Khashoggi case

Saud Al-Qahtani, an adviser to the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia [Twitter]
Saud Al-Qahtani, an adviser to the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia [Twitter]

The Saudi Prisoners of Conscience Twitter account described in consecutive tweets, the trial of Khashoggi’s killers as a “comedy,” and called for holding the officials, who ordered the killing, and everyone involved in crime accountable.

The Prisoners of Conscience Twitter account said: “Just a year ago, the US intelligence published a report revealing correspondences between Saud Al-Qahtani and Bin Salman before, during and following Khashoggi’s assassination.”

The Prisoners of Conscience Twitter account also mentioned: “Today, the Saudi judiciary claims that the crime took place without prior planning and acquits Saud Al-Qahtani! What kind of independent judiciary is this?!”

The Prisoners of Conscience, pro-opposition, Twitter account criticised the course of the trial of Khashoggi’s killers, stating: “The Public Prosecution hinders the progress of Khashoggi’s case while ignoring all international reports and audios related to the crime.”

The Prisoners of Conscience Twitter account continued: “The prosecution announced that Khashoggi’s assassination was not a priori intent, and acquitted both Al-Qahtani, Ahmad Asiri, former deputy head of the Saudi intelligence services, and the former Saudi consul, Mohammed Al-Otaibi.”

The pro-opposition Twitter account confirmed: “The total rejection of the comedy directed by the Saudi authorities, entitled as the trial of Jamal Khashoggi’s murderers, which ended with the acquittal of Al-Qahtani, Asiri, and Al-Otaibi!”

The Prisoners of Conscience Twitter account asserted: “Every individual who ordered and participated in the murder of Khashoggi must be held accountable for the crime!”

The Twitter account indicated: “In light of the lack of transparency measures in the judicial procedures, and the prosecution’s continuous attempt to violate the laws, the Saudi authorities will carry on dictating the fate of the prisoners of conscience, and exonerate those like Saud Al-Qahtani from a crime, in which he undoubtedly took part, according to reports published several months ago.”

Read: Who are Saudis under spotlight over Khashoggi’s killing?

Earlier Monday, a Saudi court issued a preliminary verdict of executing five (unnamed) out of 11 defendants. The court also sentenced three defendants, with varying prison rulings totalling 24 years, and imposed a discretionary sentence on three other convicts for not having been found guilty, which means clearing them.

The Saudi Public Prosecution announced, during a press conference, that the Riyadh Criminal Court acquitted Al-Qahtani, as no charges were pressed against him, Asiri for not having been found guilty, and Al-Otaibi, who proved his presence elsewhere at the time of Khashoggi’s death.

Jamal Khashoggi’ family did not comment on the first ruling until 12:50 GMT.

In December 2018, The Wall Street Journal revealed the content of 11 coded messages intercepted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which had been sent by the Saudi crown prince, to his adviser, Al-Qahtani, before the death of Khashoggi.

According to the newspaper, bin Salman sent at least 11 messages to Al-Qahtani “during the few hours before and following the killing of Khashoggi, according to a highly classified assessment carried out by the CIA.”

In August 2017, the Saudi crown prince told his advisors that if efforts to persuade Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia were unsuccessful, “arrangements should be made to tempt him outside the kingdom,” which signalled the “start of the operation targeting Khashoggi,” reported The Wall Street. Journal is quoting the CIA report.

In December 2018, a Turkish court issued an arrest warrant against Asiri and Al-Qahtani, while confirming the existence of evidence that both suspects participated in “attempted manslaughter via murder methods or premeditated torture.”

Three months ago, a UN report prepared by Agnès Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, documented the involvement of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the crime, citing evidence, which necessitates further investigation.

Khashoggi was killed, on 2 October 2018, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, in a crime that shocked the international community.

After 18 days of denial and conflicting accounts, Riyadh confessed Khashoggi’s assassination inside the Saudi consulate, following a “quarrel” with Saudi nationals. It arrested 18 Saudis as part of the investigations, without revealing those responsible for the crime or the location of the body.

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