A Turkish court has asked authorities to see if accused in absentia for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi are already on trial in Saudi Arabia.
The judge asked the Turkish Ministry of Justice to contact peers in Saudi Arabia and see if an investigation, prosecution or sentencing had been carried out there against the accused in the case, to prevent them from being tried again for the same offense in Turkey. word. The judge set the next trial for February 24, 2022.
Tuesday’s trial was the fifth in the trial, which began in 2020. The court is hearing 26 Saudi citizens, including a vice consul and an attaché, accused of taking part in the murder of the journalist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Khashoggi, who was a well-known critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), lived abroad and was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain documents needed to ‘ to register a marriage.
Shortly after entering the consulate, Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi agents, who dismantled and disposed of his body, which has yet to be found. Fellow dissidents who knew Khashoggi, as well as top Turkish officials, testified during the trial along with Turkish staff working at the consulate.
Prosecutors are demanding life imprisonment for four defendants charged with “premeditated murder with monstrous intent”, while 18 other life sentences are being imposed for participating in the strangulation of Khashoggi. Another four people face up to five years in prison for destroying, hiding or tampering with evidence.
“Justice delayed, justice denied”
The Turkish court has twice rejected a request by the legal team of Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, to include a US intelligence report as evidence that found that MBS the operation approved to capture or kill the journalist.
The report, released in February, found that the crown prince not only had decision-making power in the kingdom to carry out such a murder, but also said that there was ‘direct involvement’ of a key adviser and members of his security detail. .
At previous hearings, the judge told Cengiz that the report “would not bring anything to the trial,” and that she should instead ask the prosecutor general of Istanbul to include the report in their files. Prosecutors have so far given no indication that they intend to quote the U.S. intelligence report.
Cengiz told Al Jazeera she still hopes the case will provide justice to her fiancé. “I hope to get all the evidence from the US, and continue to judge the real killers,” Cengiz said. “Justice delayed, justice was denied.”
Saudi authorities said they had already punished those responsible for the killings, which they said had not been approved by MBS. Eight people, none of whom were named in public, were jailed by the kingdom for between seven and 20 years, in what legal groups said was an attempt to give the impression that the case was closed. Khashoggi’s children have publicly said they pardoned their father’s killers.
Erol Önderoğlu, a representative of the Turkish Division of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), attended the trial and told Al Jazeera no more witnesses would be heard by the court, raising fears that the case could be quietly set aside. as Turkey and Saudi Arabia seek to restore political ties.
In previous hearings, diplomats from several Western countries attended, but on Tuesday only the German consulate sent an observer. The third anniversary of the assassination went unnoticed in Istanbul this October, a stark contrast to previous memorial services held directly in front of the Saudi consulate with the attendance of both Turkish and American officials and a large media presence.
The ability of the Turkish court to prosecute the Khashoggi assassination not only has international implications, but also raises questions about what journalists within Turkey can also expect for their own safety, Önderoğlu said.
“We have multidimensional concerns. “One is related to the commitment of the international community, and now with this issue we have concerns related to the commitment of the Turkish authorities themselves,” he told Al Jazeera.
“The fact that the court twice rejected requests from Hatice Cengiz and her lawyer to include the US intelligence report, and the fact that the prosecutor also gave no sign to ask for that report, along with the idea that Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s reconciliation and the third anniversary of the assassination took place in Istanbul – it all gives the impression that this case is no longer popular. “
“We can no longer pretend that the Khashoggi case is at the top of the agenda,” he said.