A court in Turkey ruled Thursday to suspend the trial of 26 Saudis accused of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. The case is being sent to Saudi Arabia raising fears that the suspects will not face punishment for the crime.
Khashoggi was a writer and critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He was killed on October 2, 2018, at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. He had gone into the diplomatic offices to get documents required for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman. But he never left the building.
Turkish officials alleged that Khashoggi was killed and then cut into pieces inside the consulate by a team of Saudi agents. The group included security officers and individuals who worked for the crown prince. Khashoggi’s body has not been found.
The Turkish court decided to send the trial to Saudi Arabia although human rights groups warn that the Saudis will cover up the killing. The decision also comes as Turkey is trying to reduce tensions between the two countries.
Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's fiancée who was waiting outside the consulate on October 2, said she was surprised and saddened by the decision, calling it "political." She told Reuters, "Saudi Arabia is a country where we know there is no justice. No one expects a just decision there."
Human rights supporters had also urged Turkey not to send the case to Saudi Arabia. They argued there would be no justice for Khashoggi in Saudi courts.
Emma Sinclair-Webb is the director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch for Turkey. She told The Associated Press that the decision “opens the way for other countries to commit assassinations on Turkish territory and get away with it.”
The Saudi government did not immediately answer requests for comment.
At the time of the incident, Turkey had a sound recording of the actions inside the consulate and shared the evidence with the world.
In December 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also said Turkey would not hand over evidence to the Saudis because they could destroy it. "They think the world is dumb. This nation isn't dumb and it knows how to hold people accountable," Erdogan said at the time.
A U.S. intelligence report released last year said Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi. But the Saudi government denied any involvement by the crown prince and rejected the report's findings.
Turkey started the trial in absentia against the 26 Saudi suspects, including two former aides of the prince in 2020. Saudi Arabia had rejected requests that they be sent out of the country to face trial.
Some of the men involved were put on trial hidden from the public in Riyadh. A Saudi court then sentenced five mid-level officials and individuals to 20-year prison terms.
At first, the Saudi court had ordered the death penalty. But it reduced the punishment after Khashoggi’s son Salah, announced that he forgave the defendants. Three others were sentenced to shorter jail terms.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Hai Do wrote this story for VOA Learning English from reports by The Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in This Story
alleged –adj. accused of having done something wrong or illegal but not yet proven guilty
fiancée –n. a woman that a man is engaged to be married to
in absentia –adv. (legal) without being present
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