On the 4th of March, a Turkish court trying 26 Saudi suspects in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi has refused to acknowledge the recently declassified U.S. Intelligence report as evidence in the trial. Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, has petitioned to include the new report in the ongoing trial. The U.S. report released on the 26th of February by the Biden administration shows that Washington concluded that a mission to capture and murder journalist Jamal Khashoggi was approved by the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, the report was heavily criticized by the Saudis and Turkish prosecutors, both calling the report inconclusive.
Hatice Cengiz stated that the newly declassified report “directly attributes responsibility to the crown prince. Therefore, we want this to be taken into account by the court.”
Erol Onderoglu, a Turkish representative for Reporters Without Borders showed concern over the recent ruling of the court, attributing it to the current diplomatic tensions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. He stated that their concern “is that the court has taken a more passive stance… because of strategic relations or the state of diplomatic relations.”
Rebecca Vincent, a member of Reporters Without Borders who has attended one of the previous trials in the Khashoggi case, stated that an Egyptian political dissident Ayman Noor, a close friend of Khashoggi’s, stated in court that “Khashoggi had reported being threatened by Saud al-Qahtani since 2016.” Even further, he stated that people close to the crown prince have threatened that they “knew his kids and where they lived. Nour said Khashoggi was crying, which was unusual, and said he was afraid.”
The murder of U.S. journalist, Washington Post columnist, and Saudi critic, Jamal Khashoggi, in October 2018 inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey has long been associated with the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite the Saudi opposition stating at first that it had nothing to do with it. After further evidence has been revealed confirming that Jamal Khashoggi had died and has been dismembered within the Turkish consulate, the Saudi leaders have taken the stance that the event was a “rogue operation” lead by the head of a “negotiations team.” However, the recently declassified U.S. report shows evidence that such decisions are usually approved by the crown prince himself and would not have gone forward without his approval. The report also relies on consistency provided by the previous violent actions the crown prince has taken against other political dissidents.
While the Biden administration has declassified the report condemning the Saudi crown prince, it has refused to ask him to take any accountability for the murder. Instead, Biden seems to have used Khashoggi’s murder as a bargaining chip to further U.S.-Saudi relations. Biden’s refusal to condemn the Saudi crown prince for the murder of Khashoggi, despite the U.S. president’s promises during his campaign to push accountability on the Saudi leaders for the murder, has raised vast criticism with many comparing him to his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine has spoken out in defence of the Biden administration, however, he has also raised criticism on how the situation turned out, stating that “No, I’m not happy with the lack of accountability.”
On the other hand, the relationship between Turkey and Riyadh has been deteriorating ever since the murder of Khashoggi came to light. However, with the refusal of the Turkish court to add the declassified report as trial evidence and the refusal of Turkish authorities to respond to the declassification of the report, many have speculated that Turkey is on its way to mending its relationship with the Saudis.
The violent murder of Jamal Khashoggi seems to have been drowned under the U.S., Turkey, and Saudi Arabia political debates, with none of the governments looking to seek justice for the brutality in fear of damaging their relationship with each other. The 26 Saudi defendants in the Turkish court have been absent from the hearing and will most likely not be extradited to Turkey to face their sentences. In Saudi Arabia, a similar trial took place in secret, condemning five Saudi citizens to death, then later changing their sentence to 20 years in prison. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Biden administration seems to have forgotten the promises it had made during its campaign trial.
Further action needs to be taken by the U.S. and Turkey administrations and the International Organizations involved to ensure that justice is found for Khashoggi. Agnès Callamard, a UN human rights rapporteur stated that “it was extremely dangerous” for the Biden administration to release evidence of the Saudi crown prince’s involvement in the murder and not pass out any sanctions against him. This sends a message to the entire world and all reporters that political gains and power will always take priority against human rights violations.
Reporters Without Borders has filed a 500-page criminal complaint against prince Mohammed bin Salman in a court in Germany for crimes against humanity. The Secretary-General of the organization, Christophe Deloire, has stated that “No one should be above international law, especially when crimes of humanity are at stake.”
The office of the state in Germany needs to take this complaint with the utmost seriousness, to ensure that such human rights violations won’t be carried out in the future.