Saudi Arabia convicts 8 people charged in Jamal Khashoggi killing

Saudi media report defendants handed between seven and 20 years in prison over the journalist’s murder in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia sentenced eight people charged in the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, halting the death sentence for five of the men.

A court handed 20-year sentences to five people charged in the murder case, and three others were sentenced to between seven to 10 years, state media reported on Monday. The eight convicted were not identified. 

“Five of the convicts were given 20 years in prison and another three were jailed for 7-10 years,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, citing the public prosecution service.

The final court verdict comes after Khashoggi’s sons said in May they had “pardoned” the killers – meaning they would not receive death sentences – and the verdicts confirmed the five previously condemned men would not be executed.

Khashoggi went missing on October 2, 2018, while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish authorities later revealed he was murdered inside the consulate by a Saudi hit squad.

Khashoggi’s body, believed to have been dismembered, has not been found.

Khalil Jahshan, from the Arab Center in Washington, DC, noted the prosecutor’s office said the announcement was final and “closes the case forever”. 

“Most importantly, where is the body of Jamal Khashoggi? With these sentences, I assume they have found out what happened to his body,” Jahshan, a family friend, told Al Jazeera.

“The whole verdict seems to me to have been manipulated. According to legal practice in Saudi Arabia, the family has a right to commute any sentence, and the family has issued such a declaration – most probably under duress. I don’t think it was done freely, knowing the family.”  

‘Credible evidence’

A 59-year-old Washington Post columnist, Khashoggi wrote critically of the Saudi government.

Questions remain over Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) role in ordering the killing, with several western intelligence agencies alluding he had knowledge of the operation beforehand.

The Saudi government called the assassination a “rogue operation” after repeatedly denying any involvement for weeks.

Agnes Callamard – the United Nations’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions – also found “credible evidence” that Prince Mohammedand other senior Saudi officials were liable for the killing in an investigative report published in June 2019.

Turkey trial

The assassination of Khashoggi – a US resident – prompted a worldwide backlash against Saudi Arabia and caused lasting damage to MBS’s image in the international arena.

Ankara’s ties with Riyadh came under intense strain after the journalist’s killing as he was an acquaintance of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In March, Turkish prosecutors indicted 20 Saudi nationals over Khashoggi’s murder, including two former senior aides to Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.

According to the indictment, Saudi Arabia’s former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri is accused of establishing a hit team and planning the murder. 

Saud al-Qahtani, a former royal court and media adviser, is accused of instigating and leading the operation by giving orders to the hit team. Other suspects are mainly Saudi military and intelligence officers who allegedly took part.

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Jamal Khashoggi: Murder in a Saudi Consulate

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