Turkey to Move Trial of Khashoggi Suspects to Saudi Arabia – GV Wire
A Turkish court on Thursday decided to transfer the trial of 26 Saudis accused of the horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, raising fears that those responsible for the death of the Washington Post columnist could face trial for a crime that attracted the attention of the international community. contempt.
The decision, which comes as Ankara tries to restore relations with Saudi Arabia, has been denounced as “outrageous” by a human rights group. It marked a sharp turnaround for Turkey, which had vowed to shed light on the murder and began prosecuting the defendants in absentia in 2020.
Killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul
Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote reviews of Saudi Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed on October 2, 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He had gone to the consulate for an appointment to collect the necessary documents for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, and never came out.
Turkish officials claimed Khashoggi was killed and dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate by a team of Saudi agents sent to Istanbul. The group included a medical examiner, intelligence and security officers and people who worked for the Crown Prince’s office. His remains have not been found.
The Istanbul court’s decision comes despite warnings from human rights groups that transferring the case to the kingdom would lead to a cover-up of the murder, which has cast suspicion on the crown prince.
Last week, the prosecutor handling the case recommended his transfer to the kingdom, arguing that the trial in Turkey would remain inconclusive. Turkey’s justice minister backed the recommendation, adding that the trial in Turkey would resume if the court in Istanbul was unhappy with the outcome in Saudi Arabia.
It was unclear whether the kingdom, which has already tried some of the defendants behind closed doors, would open a new trial, and there was no immediate reaction from Riyadh to the decision.
Extradition requests refused by the Kingdom
During Thursday’s hearing, lawyers representing Cengiz asked the court not to move the proceedings to Saudi Arabia, the private DHA news agency reported.
“Let’s not entrust the lamb to the wolf,” lawyer Ali Ceylan told the court. “Let’s protect the honor and dignity of the Turkish nation.”
But the court halted the trial in accordance with “positive advice” from the Justice Department, the DHA reported. He also decided to lift the arrest warrants issued against the defendants and gave the parties seven days to file an opposition.
Saudi Arabia had rejected Turkish requests to extradite the defendants, who included two former aides to the prince.
Some of the men were tried in Riyadh behind closed doors. A Saudi court issued a final verdict in 2020 that sentenced five mid-level officials and agents to 20-year prison terms. The court originally ordered the death sentence but reduced the sentence after Khashoggi’s son Salah, who lives in Saudi Arabia, announced he had pardoned them. Three others were sentenced to less severe prison terms.
At the time of the murder, Turkey had apparently bugged the Saudi consulate and shared the audio of the murder with the CIA, among others.
Killing sparked international condemnation
The murder drew international condemnation. Western intelligence agencies, as well as the US Congress, have said an operation of such magnitude could not have taken place without the Crown Prince’s knowledge.
Human rights advocates had also urged Turkey not to transfer the case to Saudi Arabia, arguing that justice for Khashoggi would not be served in Saudi courts.
“It’s an outrageous decision,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey director for New York-based Human Rights Watch, saying the court had “approved” a political decision that would allow the Turkish government to mend its ties. with Saudi Arabia.
“In the interests of realpolitik, Turkey is ready to sacrifice justice for a blatant crime on its own soil,” she told The Associated Press. “(The decision) paves the way for other countries to commit assassinations on Turkish territory and get away with it.”
Cengiz said she will continue to seek justice.
“We will continue this (legal) process with all the power given to me, as a Turkish citizen,” she told reporters outside the courthouse.
Turkey seeks to improve relations with Saudi leaders
“The two countries may be making a deal, the two countries may be opening a new chapter…but the crime is still the same,” she said. “The people who committed the crime have not changed. Governments and states must take a position of principle.
Turkey, which is in a deep economic recession, has tried to improve its strained relations with Saudi Arabia and a range of other countries in the region. Some media claimed that Riyadh had made improving relations conditional on Turkey dropping the deal, which had fueled tensions between the two countries.
The move would pave the way for a resolution of disputes between the two regional heavyweights since the 2011 Arab Spring, including Turkey’s support for Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, which Riyadh considers a terrorist group. Turkey has also sided with Qatar in a diplomatic dispute that has seen Doha boycotted by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.