Saudi suspects in Khashoggi murder on trial in absentia

Elias Hubbard
July 3, 2020

The October 2018 attack at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul prompted widespread revulsion, damaged relations between Ankara and Riyadh, and tarnished the prince's worldwide image.

Twenty Saudi nationals have gone on trial in absentia in Turkey over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Twenty Saudi officials are on trial in absentia in Turkey accused of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, nearly two years after his disappearance in Istanbul shocked the world and irreparably tarnished the image of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as a liberal reformer.

In March, the Istanbul prosecutor filed an indictment that accused two close associates of Mohammed bin Salman as perpetrators, describing the former deputy head of Saudi Arabia's general intelligence Ahmed al-Asiri and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani as having "instigated premeditated murder with monstrous intent".

The CIA, along with several western governments, eventually concluded that the crown prince was involved in Khashoggi's assassination. Turkish officials say his body was dismembered and removed to an unknown site. It includes CCTV footage of the movement of the suspects - 15 of whom flew into Turkey from Saudi Arabia ahead of the killing - as well as eyewitness testimony from Turkish workers in the consulate who were given time off on the day of the murder.

Khashoggi was last seen entering the consulate seeking documents for his impending wedding.

Khashoggi's Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, and the United Nations special rapporteur Agnès Callamard waited for the judges to arrive in a courtroom at the imposing courthouse complex in Istanbul's Çağlayanneighbourhood before the trial began on Friday. His remains have never been recovered.

The Saudi authorities initially denied any involvement in the case, but later called it a "rogue operation".

The crown prince's former aides, Assiri and Qahtani, were exonerated. "Turkey is not cooperating with Saudi Arabia", Abdullah al Mouallimi told reporters.

A closed-door trial in Saudi Arabia ended in December with five unnamed people sentenced to death.

The suspects were charged with "deliberately and monstrously killing, causing torment", and prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for them.

Media captionMohammed bin Salman is asked: "Did you order the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?"

Cengiz, who was attending the trial as plaintiff, declared earlier this week that she would not stop pursuing all legal remedies to hold Khashoggi's killers accountable. Khashoggi's family later said they forgave his murderers, paving the way for their formal reprieve.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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