Twenty Saudi suspects including two former aides to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman went on trial Friday in absentia in Turkey, accused of killing and dismembering journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Khashoggi, 59, was an insider-turned-critic who wrote for The Washington Post before he was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 where he had gone to obtain documents necessary for his wedding to Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz.
Turkish prosecutors claim Saudi deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri and the royal court’s media czar Saud al-Qahtani led the operation and gave orders to a Saudi hit team.
They were formally charged in March with “instigating the deliberate and monstrous killing, causing torment”.
Eighteen other suspects — including intelligence operative Maher Mutreb who frequently travelled with the crown prince on foreign tours, forensic expert Salah al-Tubaigy and Fahad al-Balawi, a member of the Saudi royal guard — were charged with “deliberately and monstrously killing, causing torment”.
The prosecutor has already issued arrest warrants for the suspects who are not in Turkey.
Cengiz, who is a complainant in the case, was attending the trial alongside the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard.
Yasin Aktay, a close friend of Khashoggi and advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, was also in the courtroom.
Erdogan has said the order to murder Khashoggi came from “the highest levels” of the Saudi government but has never directly blamed Prince Mohammed.
Cengiz said she hoped the trial “brings to light the whereabouts of Jamal’s body, the evidence against the killers and the evidence of those behind the gruesome murder.”
“I will continue to pursue all legal avenues to hold Jamal’s killers accountable and I will not rest until we get justice for Jamal,” she told AFP before the trial.
During the Istanbul prosecutor’s investigation, the suspects’ phone records, their presence at the consulate confirmed by CCTV images, as well as Khashoggi’s laptop, two phones and an iPad were analysed.
Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in a case that tarnished the reputation of the crown prince despite his strenuous denial of any involvement.
Khashoggi’s remains have never been found.
Saudi Arabia describes the murder as a “rogue” operation but both the CIA and Callamard have directly linked the crown prince, the de facto ruler and heir to the Saudi throne, to the killing.
Callamard called for an independent international probe into the murder last year after she said Khashoggi was the victim of a “premeditated extrajudicial execution”.
A closed-door trial of 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia ended in December with five unnamed people sentenced to death.
The crown prince’s former aides, Assiri and Qahtani, were exonerated.
The sons of Khashoggi said they forgave his killers in May this year, a moved expected to allow the government to grant clemency for the five convicts on death row.
Relations between Ankara and Riyadh are rocky, having worsened significantly after Khashoggi’s murder.
The two countries are also on opposing sides in the Libyan war, where Ankara has recently helped turn the tide in favour of the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.
Trump attacks 2 GOP governors on flight to Georgia rally: ‘Republicans will NEVER forget this’
Republicans have been "working frantically behind the scenes" to keep President Donald Trump on message during his Saturday campaign rally in Georgia, but the efforts do not seem to be working.
GOP strategists hoped Trump would make the case for the two GOP senators in the January runoff elections that will decide control of the U.S. Senate, but Trump has continued to fixate on his delusions that he won the presidential election.
Aboard Air Force One on the flight to the rally, Trump attacked two GOP governors: Brian Kemp of Georgia and Doug Ducey of Arizona -- and seemed to threaten political retribution for the pair not going along with the president's debunked conspiracy theories about the election.
Trump holds large rally in Georgia — one day after the Peach State set a new coronavirus record
President Donald Trump departed the White House on Saturday for an evening campaign rally in Georgia -- despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump is ostensively making the trip to support Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) and interim Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) in the January runoff elections that will decide control of the U.S. Senate. However, Republicans fear Trump will use his speech to continue bashing GOP Gov. Brian Kemp.
Trump's visit also comes against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.
Panicked Republicans ‘working frantically behind the scenes’ — but Trump just keeps attacking GOP Gov Brian Kemp
Republicans are worried that President Donald Trump will pour gasoline on the intraparty inferno burning in Georgia.
Trump is officially traveling to the Peach State for a rally in support of the two Republican senators in January runoff elections that will decide control of the U.S. Senate.
Republicans worry Trump will continue to attack Republican Gov. Brian Kemp as he has on Twitter.
"Trump is to headline a campaign rally for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the state Saturday night — his first major political event since before the Nov. 3 election. GOP officials are working frantically behind the scenes to try to keep the president on script at the rally, worried that he will use the forum to attack Kemp and other state GOP officials who have resisted his pressure, according to a person familiar with the discussions," The Washington Post reported Saturday.