ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A Turkish court on Friday will open the trial of 20 Saudi officials indicted in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a step his fiancee hopes to shed light on the death and reveal where his body was hidden.
The indictment by Istanbul prosecutors accuses Saudi Arabia’s former deputy general intelligence chief Ahmed al-Asiri and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani of inciting ” premeditated murder with monstrous intent, ”the prosecutor’s office said in March.
He says 18 other defendants committed the murder by suffocating Khashoggi, who had become increasingly critical of Saudi Arabia’s de facto crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The 20 accused should be tried in absentia.
The October 2018 attack on the Saudi consulate in Istanbul sparked widespread revolt, damaged relations between Ankara and Riyadh and tarnished the prince’s international image. Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, have said they believe he ordered the murder – a charge denied by Saudi officials.
Khashoggi was last seen entering the consulate in search of documents for his impending marriage. 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 will shed light on the whereabouts of Jamal’s body (and) the evidence against the killers,” his fiancée Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside the consulate on Monday, told Reuters. day of his assassination.
When asked if Saudi Arabia would cooperate with Turkish legal proceedings, the kingdom’s ambassador to the United Nations said Riyadh had 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 prison terms for Khashoggi’s murder after a largely secret trial. Khashoggi’s family later said they forgave their 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 those convicted are not named, ”Cengiz said.
Turkey has accused Saudi officials of hampering investigations, while Riyadh has repeatedly said the Istanbul prosecutor failed to respond to requests to share information.
Prince Mohammed has denied ordering the murder, but said he bears ultimate responsibility as the kingdom’s de facto ruler. Saudi Arabia initially denied any involvement or knowledge of Khashoggi’s death, but then changed its position several times.
Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Dominic Evans, Mark Heinrich, William Maclean