In Saudi Arabia, five people have received the death penalty for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The prosecutor in Saudi Arabia has announced this. Three other people received 24-year prison sentences for “covering up” the crimes.
The journalist from ‘The Washington Post’, was murdered on 2 October 2018 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He wanted to collect documents there for his marriage to Hatice Cengiz who was waiting for him outside. Khashoggi was awaited, killed and cut to pieces. The corpse of the journalist who regularly wrote critical columns about Saudi Arabia was never found.
A total of eleven people had been charged. Eight people were convicted. No evidence has been found against people from circles around the Saudi crown prince Mohamed Bin Salman.
Among others, no charges were brought against Saudi al-Qahtani, a close advisor to the crown prince. According to the American intelligence service CIA and an expert from the United Nations, the latter had nevertheless ordered the murder, which he denies. The former number two intelligence officer, General Ahmed al-Assiri, was acquitted.
Interest group disappointed
Interest group Reporters Without Borders (RWB) states in a statement that they are disappointed with the statement. “This statement is a way of silencing witnesses forever.” According to the organization, international legal principles were violated in the process.
“We hope that Saudi Arabia will rectify the errors in a public hearing in which the evidence will be shown,” says the organization that is committed to freedom of the press. “This way, the country will not polish its image.”
The UN Special Rapporteur has also sharply criticized the verdict. “The killers are guilty, sentenced to death. Not only do the figures behind the scenes remain free. In fact, the investigation and the trial have barely touched them. This is the opposite of justice. It’s a farce,” wrote Agnès Callamard on Monday on Twitter.
Eighteen representatives of the Saudi government wiped out traces of a “summary execution” in the consulate for ten days, thus obstructing justice, wrote Callamard. The State of Saudi Arabia was said to be responsible for the execution under international law, but to Callamard’s displeasure, it was not held accountable during the trial. She complains that the investigation did not focus on the figures behind the scenes, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The accused repeatedly stated that they were only executing orders, according to Callamard.
The court concluded that there was no premeditation and that Khashoggi’s death was, therefore, an accident. “Suggesting that the murder happened spontaneously, after which he was cut to pieces, is completely ridiculous. Such mutilation requires a minimum of planning.” The fact that at least 24 hours before the murder, a court doctor was part of the murder team, also indicates planning.
Reporters without Borders: “Indictments for Justice”
The sentencing to death of five Saudis for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is “a mockery of justice”. That’s what the General Secretary of Reporters Without Borders, Christophe Deloire, says on Monday.
The trial, which took place behind closed doors, did not respect “internationally recognized principles of justice”. It could even be “a means to silence the witnesses of the murder forever,” says Deloire.
“We can question the random nature of the decisions,” Deloire said. “We hope that Saudi Arabia will recover with a public trial on appeal, and with evidence. It is not by doing justice in this way that the kingdom will restore its image.”