A Turkish court will open the trial on Friday of 20 Saudi officials indicted over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a step his fiancee hopes will shed more light on the death and reveal where his body was hidden.
The indictment by Istanbul prosecutors accuses the former deputy head of Saudi Arabia’s general intelligence, Ahmed al-Asiri, and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani of instigating “premeditated murder with monstrous intent”, the prosecutor’s office said in March.
It says 18 other defendants carried out the killing by suffocating Khashoggi, who had grown increasingly critical of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. All 20 defendants are expected to be tried in absentia.
The October 2018 attack at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul prompted widespread revulsion, damaged relations between Ankara and Riyadh, and tarnished the prince’s international image. Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, have said they believed he ordered the killing – an accusation Saudi officials denied.
Khashoggi was last seen entering the consulate seeking documents for his impending wedding. Turkish officials said his body was dismembered and removed from the building. His remains have not been found.
“I hope this criminal case in Turkey brings to light the whereabouts of Jamal’s body (and) the evidence against the killers,” his fiancee Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting for him outside the consulate on the day of his killing, told Reuters.
Asked whether Saudi Arabia would cooperate with the Turkish legal proceedings, the kingdom’s United Nations ambassador said Riyadh asked Ankara to share evidence with Saudi investigators but received no response. “Turkey is not cooperating with Saudi Arabia,” Abdullah al Mouallimi told reporters.
In December a Saudi court sentenced five people to death and three to jail for Khashoggi’s killing after a largely secretive trial. Khashoggi’s family later said they forgave his murderers, paving the way for their formal reprieve.
Cengiz said neither the trial nor the pardon followed due process. “No one can take the ‘trial’ that took place in Saudi Arabia legitimately; it was done in secret and the individuals sentenced are unnamed,” Cengiz said.
Turkey has accused Saudi officials of obstructing investigations, while Riyadh repeatedly said the Istanbul prosecutor has not complied with requests to share information.
Prince Mohammed has denied ordering the killing but said he bore ultimate responsibility as the kingdom’s de facto leader. Saudi Arabia initially denied any involvement in or knowledge of Khashoggi’s death but later changed its position several times.