Turkey suspends trial of Saudi suspects in Khashoggi killing
A Turkish court ruled on April 7 to suspend the trial in absentia of 26 Saudis accused in the gruesome killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and for the case to be transferred to Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote critically about Saudi Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed on Oct. 2, 2018, at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. He had gone into the consulate for an appointment to collect documents required for him to marry his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.
He never emerged from the building. His remains have not been found.
Last week, the prosecutor in the case recommended that it be transferred to the kingdom, arguing that the trial in Turkey would remain inconclusive. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ supported the recommendation, adding that the trial in Turkey would resume if the Turkish court is not satisfied with the outcome of proceedings in the kingdom. It was not clear, however, if Saudi Arabia, which has already put some of the defendants on trial behind closed doors, would open a new trial.
During Thursday's hearing, lawyers representing Cengiz asked the court not to move proceedings to Saudi Arabia.
“Let’s not entrust the lamb to the wolf,” Demirören News Agency quoted lawyer Ali Ceylan as telling the court, using a Turkish saying.
The court however, ruled to halt the trial in line with the Justice Ministry’s “positive opinion.” It also decided to lift arrest warrants issued against the defendants and gave the sides seven days in which to lodge any opposition to the court’s decisions.
The court had “rubber stamped” a political decision, Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch told The Associated Press.
Cengiz said she would continue to seek justice.
“We will continue this (judicial) process with all the power given to me, as a Turkish citizen,” she told reporters outside the courthouse.
“The two countries may be making an agreement, the two countries may be opening a new chapter... but the crime is still the same crime,” she said. “The people who committed the crime haven’t changed.”
She said Turkey “has a justice system that addresses citizens’ grievances.”
“We will appeal the decision in line with our legal system,” she added.
At the time of the crime, Turkey apparently had the Saudi Consulate bugged and shared audio of the killing with the CIA, among others.
Turkey, which had vowed to shed light on the brutal killing, began prosecuting the defendants in absentia in 2020 after Saudi Arabia rejected requests for their extradition. The defendants included two former aides of the prince.
Some of the men were put on trial in Riyadh behind closed doors. A Saudi court issued a final verdict in 2020 that sentenced five mid-level officials and operatives to 20-year jail terms. The court had originally ordered the death penalty, but reduced the punishment after Khashoggi’s son Salah, who lives in Saudi Arabia, announced that he forgave the defendants. Three others were sentenced to lesser jail terms.