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Turkey to put Saudi suspects of Khashoggi murder on trial in absentia

July 1, 2020 at 1:29 pm

Protestor dresses in Bin Salman mask and brandishes a bloodied saw in Washington DC on 2 October 2018 [Win McNamee/Getty Images]

Turkey is to hold a trial for those suspected of murdering Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in absentia tomorrow, according to his fiancée.

Khashoggi, who had close ties to the Saudi royal family before becoming critical of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his policies, was assassinated in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 while attaining paperwork for his marriage to Hatice Cengiz.

Following his murder, which drew international outrage, an investigation was conducted and it was discovered through CCTV footage that a team of Saudi hitmen had been deployed from the kingdom in order to prepare for the assassination. Audio recordings also reportedly found that it was the Crown prince himself who had directed the operation via a telephone call.

Around 20 suspects made up the hit team, including prominent Saudi government officials such as the deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Al-Assiri and the royal court’s media chief Saud Al-Qahtani who is thought to have led the operation. All were charged with “deliberately and monstrously killing, causing torment.”

Turkey’s indictment of Khashoggi’s killers is essential for justice to be served

Turkey’s trial in absentia comes half a year after Saudi Arabia held its own trial in December last year, in which it sentenced five to death but released major operatives such as Al-Qahtani and the Saudi consul Mohammed Al-Otaibi. The ruling by the kingdom’s prosecutor was widely criticised and was seen as an insincere and unfair trial.

When Turkey then requested access to the investigation’s files, Saudi Arabia refused to hand them over, resulting in the Turkish public prosecutor’s indictment of the 20 suspects in March this year.

The trial tomorrow will reportedly open at Istanbul’s main court Çağlayan at 10am local time (07:00 GMT), and Cengiz stated that she “will also be there”. The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, is also expected to also attend.

If the suspects of Khashoggi’s assassination are convicted, they will face a sentence of life imprisonment.

Khashoggi’s fiancée is right to reject his family’s pardon for his killers