Turkey hands over Khashoggi murder trial to Saudi Arabia

ISTANBUL – A Turkish court on Thursday transferred the trial of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, a move almost certain to end the last case in the hope of getting some measure of justice for a heinous crime. Worldwide outrage.

The Turkish decision was a blow to human rights lawyers who hoped that the trial in Turkey would at least reveal more evidence to the public about who was involved and how Mr Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a Saudi hit squad inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. , Where he went to collect papers to marry his Turkish fiance Hatice Cengiz.

“Let’s not hand over the lamb to the lamb,” Mrs. Cengiz’s lawyer, Ali Silan, told the court Thursday before announcing the verdict. “Let’s protect the dignity and honor of the Turkish nation and not make such a decision.”

Mr Silan reminded the court that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish officials had said that justice did not exist in Saudi Arabia.

Gokmen Baspina, another lawyer for Ms Genghis, told the court that the trial of the suspects in the Saudi case had already ended and that many of the defendants in the Turkish trial had been acquitted.

“Transferring the case to a country without justice would be irresponsible for the Turkish nation,” Mr Baspiner said.

The decision comes amid efforts by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to improve his country’s relations with Saudi Arabia. Last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlুতt Cavusoglu said in a televised interview that there were “definite steps” toward improving relations with the Arab world’s richest state.

Announcing the decision in the courtroom of a panel of judges, the court last week granted the prosecutor a request to transfer the case because none of the 26 Saudi suspects were in Turkish custody for trial. Turkey’s justice minister has backed the prosecutor’s request.

The Turkish trial, which opened in 2020, was largely symbolic because Saudi Arabia refused to extradite suspects and did not allow Turkish law to convict those who did not testify.

Mr. Khashoggi was a prominent journalist who fell out with his government and moved to the United States, where he wrote a column for the Washington Post criticizing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his plans to rebuild the kingdom. Mr. Khashoggi’s body was never found.

Prince Mohammed insisted he had no prior knowledge of the assassination plot. However, the CIA concluded that it had given the green light to the operation to kill or capture Mr Khashoggi.

Turkish authorities have released details to keep the case in the spotlight, which, in addition to the killings, has fueled long-running tensions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia over Turkey’s relations with political Islamists in the Arab world and its support for the Arab Spring uprising, which Saudi Arabia has opposed.

Saudi Arabia imposed an unofficial boycott of Turkish goods, drastically reduced the flow of Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia, and Turkey has recently faced a significant financial crisis that has caused its currency to depreciate.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death and three to life in prison for killing Mr Khashoggi. The following year, the death sentence was commuted to prison after Mr. Khashoggi’s adult son pardoned the murderers.

That trial reinforced the Saudi narrative that Mr Khashoggi’s death was the result of a rogue operation without the supervision of top officials. The Saudis have never named the convicts, and a UN expert has called the trial “anti-justice.”

In support of the transfer of the case to Saudi Arabia last week, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said in a statement that the trial would continue in Saudi Arabia and that Turkey would wait to be convicted and sentenced before dropping its own case.

But Saudi Arabia is unlikely to hear the case because Saudi officials have said they consider their trial to be final.

Safaq Taimur reports from Istanbul and Ben Hubbard reports from Beirut, Lebanon.

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