Turkey opens trial of Saudi suspects in Jamal Khashoggi killing

Cheryl Sanders
July 4, 2020

"I hope this criminal case in Turkey brings to light the whereabouts of Jamal's body (and) the evidence against the killers", she told Reuters.

Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi, leaves a court in Istanbul.

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. The journalist's 2018 killing at the consulate sparked global condemnation and cast a cloud of suspicion over the prince.

A closed-door trial of 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia ended in December with five unnamed people sentenced to death. The proceedings were widely criticised as a whitewash. Khashoggi's remains were never recovered. He never walked out.

It was Cengiz who had notified authorities of the disappearance of her fiance after she had waited for several hours outside the Saudi consulate.

Yasin Aktay, a prominent politician from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party and a friend of Khashoggi's, told the court that the slain journalist felt safe in Turkey despite reports of "operations by Saudis against dissidents overseas".

Turkey says the death of the journalist was planned, and it wants those responsible turned in. One said he had a brief conversation with the journalist when Khashoggi first entered the building but did not see him again after that. All 20 suspects would face life in prison in Turkey if convicted, although none of them are expected to attend the hearings.

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.

Eighteen others are accused of carrying out the killing with "monstrous intent and torture". The Crown Prince has been trying to re-brand the kingdom's image into an open society as he was aiming in reducing the dependence of its income from oil. They included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers and individuals who worked for the crown prince's office. Turkish investigators have also alleged that Khashoggi's body was dismembered with a bone saw and then dissolved in acid on the consulate premises. 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.

Former adviser to Saudi prince spared from sentence; Trey Yingst reports.

Prior to his killing, Khashoggi had written critically of Saudi Arabia's crown prince in columns for the Washington Post. Following the Turkish audio leaks, the kingdom eventually settled on the explanation that the he was killed by rogue officials in a fight.

The trial is likely to further anger Riyadh, which moved to ban Turkish state news agencies earlier this year after Istanbul's prosecutor filed the indictment. Khashoggi's family later said they forgave his murderers, paving the way for their formal reprieve.

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