Jamal Khashoggi: Istanbul court transfers murder case to Saudi ArabiaComments
A Turkish court ruled on Thursday to suspend the trial in absentia of 26 Saudis accused of the gruesome killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, with the case to be transferred to Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote for the Washington Post, was killed on 2 October 2018, at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone for an appointment to collect documents required for him to marry his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz. He never emerged from the building.
Cengiz, a Turkish national, announced that she will appeal the transfer of the case.
"We are not ruled here by a family, like in Saudi Arabia. We have a judicial system that responds to the grievances of citizens: as such, we will appeal," she told reporters as she left the Istanbul court.
The court's decision comes despite warnings from human rights groups that turning the case over to the kingdom would lead to a cover-up of the killing which has cast suspicion on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
It also comes as Turkey, which is in the throes of an economic downturn, has been trying to repair its troubled relationship with Saudi Arabia and an array of other countries in its region.
Some media reports have claimed that Riyadh has made improved relations conditional on Turkey dropping the case against the Saudis.
Last week, the prosecutor in the case recommended that the case be transferred to the kingdom, arguing that the trial in Turkey would remain inconclusive.
Turkey’s justice minister supported the recommendation, adding that the trial in Turkey would resume if the Turkish court is not satisfied with the outcome of proceedings in the kingdom.
New trial in Saudi Arabia uncertain
It was not clear, however, if Saudi Arabia -- which has already put some of the defendants on trial behind closed doors -- would open a new trial.
The slaying sparked international outrage and condemnation. Western intelligence agencies, as well as the US Congress, have said that an operation of that magnitude could not have happened without the knowledge of the prince.
Turkey, which vowed to shed light on the brutal killing, began prosecuting the defendants in absentia in 2020 after Saudi Arabia rejected requests for their extradition. The defendants included two former aides of the prince.
Some of the men were put on trial in Riyadh behind closed doors. A Saudi court issued a final verdict in 2020 that sentenced five mid-level officials and operatives to 20-year jail terms.
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.