Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Public Prosecutor, Shaalan al-Shaalan, announced on Thursday, November 15th that eleven Saudis are on trial for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for five of them. However, Al-Shaalan maintained that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had no knowledge of the killing that took place in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd, 2018. The U.S. has since issued economic sanctions against 17 individuals that are said to be involved in the killing.
Despite Prince Mohammed’s assertion that Khashoggi’s murder was a “heinous crime that cannot be justified,” the Turkish President continues to suggest that the Crown Prince must have known, and perhaps even authorized, the killing. Tayyip Erdogan has said that “the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of Saudi government” but not from King Salman. Thus, suggesting that the Crown Prince is to blame for the death of Khashoggi. Turkish officials are also dissatisfied with the Saudi’s argument that the killing was not premeditated but was an unfortunate consequence of the physical fight that occurred in the Consulate. Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu, has labeled the Saudi’s investigation as unsatisfactory, “they say this person was killed because he resisted, whereas this murder was premeditated…this isn’t a spontaneous thing.” Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancé, has praised Turkey’s efforts, saying that “they have done everything they could.” She has also called for the International Community to aid Turkey in identifying all those responsible, “this is not a political matter…Turkey should not feel alone.”
The International Community’s general consensus is that it is highly unlikely that the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was not aware of the plans to kill Khashoggi. Furthermore, the evidence gathered thus far strongly suggests that the Saudi team purposefully went to the Consulate to murder Jamal Khashoggi, and not to persuade him to return to the Gulf region. Moreover, the evidence implies that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investigation is politically biased and is aimed at obscuring the truth in order to protect Prince Mohammed and other top aides.
This abhorrent abuse of the justice system should be condemned and Saudi Arabia’s investigation report rejected. Saudi prosecutors should not send anyone to death row while the truth of the allegations remains unclear. In fact, U.N. should conduct its own independent investigation of the Khashoggi’s murder. Turkey’s efforts to establish the truth have rightfully been recognized and praised by Cengiz. However, the International Community must support Turkey to ensure that Khashoggi’s murderers are held accountable.
Jamal Khashoggi was an adviser to the Saudi’s Royal Family before he fell out of favour because of his vocal criticism of the Riyadh government. This led to his self-imposed exile to the U.S. in 2017 where he wrote for the Washington Post. His final column was published on September 11th, 2018. It criticized Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen. On October 2nd, 2018 Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul seeking an authorization to marry his Turkish fiancé. Evidence, including audio recordings, suggests that Khashoggi was attacked and strangled almost immediately upon entering. His body was then dismembered and passed on to an unknown collaborator. Saudi Arabia, at first, claimed that Khashoggi had left the embassy alive. Only on October 19th, it had admitted that the journalist had been killed; however, Saudi Arabia argued that Khashoggi’s death was caused by a brawl and was not intentional.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution investigation must be held up for what it is: a fabricated story of half-truths which seeks to protect powerful individuals like the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi wrote in the Washington Post that “I want you to know that Saudi Arabia has not always been as it is now. We Saudis deserve better.” The International Community must stand up against Saudi Arabia and the arrogance of the Prince, or unjust murders of political opponents will continue in the future.