Turkey suspends trial of Saudi suspects in Khashoggi murder


ISTANBUL (AP) — A Turkish court on Thursday decided to stay the trial in absentia of 26 Saudis accused of the gruesome murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and transfer the case to Saudi Arabia.

ISTANBUL (AP) — A Turkish court on Thursday decided to stay the trial in absentia of 26 Saudis accused of the gruesome murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and transfer the case to Saudi Arabia.

Kaghoggi, a US resident who wrote for the Washington Post, was killed on October 2, 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone for an appointment to collect the necessary documents for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. . He never left the building.

The court’s decision comes despite warnings from human rights groups that transferring the case to the kingdom would lead to a cover-up of the murder which cast suspicion on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

It also comes as Turkey, which is in the grip of an economic downturn, tries to mend its troubled relationship with Saudi Arabia and a range of other countries in its region. Some media have claimed that Riyadh made improving relations conditional on Turkey dropping charges against the Saudis.

Turkish officials have alleged that Khashoggi, who wrote critically about the crown prince, was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate by a team of Saudi agents sent to Istanbul. The group included a medical examiner, intelligence and security officers and people who worked for the Crown Prince’s office. His remains have not been found.

Last week, the prosecutor handling the case recommended that the case be transferred to the kingdom, arguing that the trial in Turkey would remain inconclusive. Turkey’s justice minister backed the recommendation, adding that the trial in Turkey would resume if the Turkish court was not satisfied with the outcome of the proceedings in the kingdom. However, it was unclear whether Saudi Arabia, which has already tried some of the defendants behind closed doors, would open a new trial.

The court decided to stop the trial in accordance with the “positive opinion” of the Ministry of Justice, the private news agency DHA reported.

Human rights defenders had urged Turkey not to transfer the case to Saudi Arabia.

“By transferring the case of a murder committed on its territory, Turkey will knowingly and voluntarily return the case to those who bear its responsibility,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard. “Indeed, the Saudi system has repeatedly refused to cooperate with the Turkish prosecutor and it is clear that justice cannot be served by a Saudi court.”

“What happened to Turkey’s stated commitment that justice must prevail for this horrific murder and that this matter would never become a pawn in political calculations and interests?” she asked.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said: “Given the complete lack of judicial independence in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government’s role in Khashoggi’s murder, its past attempts to obstruct justice, and With a criminal justice system that fails to meet basic standards of fairness, the chances of a fair trial in the Khashoggi case in Saudi Arabia are close to zero.

Turkey apparently bugged the Saudi consulate and shared the audio of the murder with the CIA, among others.

The killing sparked international outrage and condemnation. Western intelligence agencies, as well as the US Congress, have said an operation of this magnitude could not have taken place without the prince’s knowledge.

Turkey, which has vowed to shed light on the brutal murder, began prosecuting the defendants in absentia in 2020 after Saudi Arabia rejected extradition requests. The defendants included two former aides to the prince.

Some of the men were tried in Riyadh behind closed doors. A Saudi court issued a final verdict in 2020 that sentenced five mid-level officials and agents to 20-year prison terms. The court initially ordered the death sentence but reduced the sentence after Khashoggi’s son Salah, who lives in Saudi Arabia, announced he had pardoned the defendants. Three others were sentenced to lesser prison terms.


Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

Ayse Wieting and Suzan Fraser, Associated Press


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