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Turkey trial of Saudi suspects in Khashoggi murder begins in absentia

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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Harvard researchers want less accurate tests for COVID-19

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The aphorism "perfect is the enemy of good enough" has been played out to tragic effect in the US's inadequate testing for the coronavirus, according to researchers calling for quick tests that cost only about a dollar each, and which may not be as accurate but can be carried out several times a week by the whole population.

Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, has for weeks been pushing for what he calls "crappy" tests.

His idea is to move away from the current high-precision molecular tests, known as PCR tests, which are still scarce in large swathes of the country and which people often have to wait hours to get done, and then have to wait days -- or up to a week -- for the results.

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WATCH: Seth Meyers goes after ‘sociopath’ Jared Kushner for America’s coronavirus failures

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The host of "Late Night with Seth Meyers" on NBC harshly criticized senior White House advisor Jared Kushner for America's COVID-19 testing failures.

"More than 155,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus pandemic," Meyers noted. "Cases are rising in more than 20 states. The U.S. now accounts for one-quarter of all coronavirus deaths in the world."

"And in some parts of the country, people are waiting as long as two-weeks to get their test results -- which is insane. The whole point of testing is to find cases, isolate them and trace their contacts. If it takes two weeks, it's pointless."

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Virologist rips Deborah Birx: ‘She’s ignored the evidence’ with her ‘willful disregard for the science’

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The White House coronavirus coordinator continues to lose support among the medical community, according to a new report in The Washington Post.

The report noted Dr. Deborah Birx has also been undermined by Trump, who attacked her on Twitter.

So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!

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