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Jamal Khashoggi: Turkish prosecutor calls for murder trial to be halted

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
People hold posters of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul.
People hold posters of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, File

A Turkish prosecutor has called for the trial into the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi to be suspended.

The prosecutor has called for the case to be transferred to Saudi Arabia because Ankara cannot execute arrest warrants or take defence statements.

The surprise request comes after the Saudi chief public prosecutor’s office asked for proceedings to be transferred from Turkey earlier this month.

A panel of judges has said that letter should be sent to Turkey’s Justice Ministry for further opinion and the case has been adjourned until April 7.

Twenty-six Saudi nationals are on trial for the killing of Khashoggi. Turkey decided to try the defendants in absentia after Saudi Arabia rejected Turkish demands for their extradition.

The development in the Khashoggi trial comes as Turkey has been trying to normalise its relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview on Thursday that Saudi authorities were now more cooperative on judicial issues with Turkey after Khashoggi's death.

Amnesty International has urged Turkey to press ahead with the trial.

“If the prosecutor’s request is granted ... Turkey will be knowingly and willingly sending the case to a place where it will be covered up,” said Tarik Beyhan, Amnesty’s campaign director for Turkey.

“Basic human rights ... should not be made the subject of political negotiations,” he said. “A murder cannot be covered up to fix relations.”

Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz also appeared to criticise the prosecutor’s request on Twitter.

“It is an exemplary situation in terms of showing the dilemma facing humanity in the modern era,” Cengiz wrote.

“Which of the two will we choose? To want to live like a virtuous human being or to build a life by holding material interests above all kinds of values.”

Erol Önderoglu, the representative for Reporters Without Borders in Turkey also told AFP that "transferring the case to Riyadh ... is terrible news for those who want justice for the journalist".

What happened to Jamal Khashoggi?

The US-based Saudi dissident disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. His body has not been found.

Turkish officials allege that Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered inside the consulate building.

Prior to his death, Khashoggi had written critically of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in columns for the Washington Post.

Turkish authorities said he was killed by a team of Saudi agents. Those on trial in absentia include two former aides of the prince.

Saudi officials initially offered conflicting accounts concerning the killing, including claims that Khashoggi had left the consulate building unharmed.

But amid mounting international pressure, they stated that Khashoggi’s death was a tragic accident, with the meeting unexpectedly turning violent.

The slaying had sparked international condemnation and cast a cloud of suspicion over the Saudi Crown Prince.

In 2020, a Saudi court sentenced five mid-level officials and operatives to 20-year jail terms in a trial held behind closed doors.

The court had originally ordered the death penalty but reduced the punishment after Khashoggi’s son Salah -- who lives in Saudi Arabia -- announced that he forgave the defendants. Three others were sentenced to lesser jail terms.