Suspects in Khashoggi killing to be tried in kingdom

Public Prosecutor Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said investigations into Khashoggi’s death were continuing “to obtain the facts.”
Sunday 28/10/2018
Investigating the crime. A Saudi flag flutters atop Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul, on  October 22. (Reuters)
Investigating the crime. A Saudi flag flutters atop Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul, on October 22. (Reuters)

LONDON - The joint Turkish-Saudi investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi confirmed that his death at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul was “premeditated,” the Saudi public prosecutor said.

A statement from Public Prosecutor Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said information from Turkish authorities indicated that “suspects in this incident undertook their action with premeditation.”

Mojeb, who was to travel to Istanbul, said investigations into Khashoggi’s death were continuing “to obtain the facts, God willing, and let justice run its course.”

Khashoggi, 59, was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Saudi officials initially denied knowing what happened to the journalist but leaks by Turkish sources said Khashoggi had died.

After a joint investigation by Saudi and Turkish officials, the Saudi government on October 20 admitted Khashoggi was strangled in an “unsanctioned operation” in the consulate. On October 25, Mojeb said the killing was a premeditated act.

Saudi authorities arrested 18 suspects in the case and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud sacked several security and intelligence officials, including deputy intelligence chief and former government spokesman Major-General Ahmed al-Assiri and Royal Court Adviser Saud al-Qahtani.

Khashoggi’s death hurt Saudi Arabia’s image in the international community. The case was politicised by media organisations affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood that included allegations implicating the kingdom and specifically Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz as being behind the killing.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a speech October 23, said the suspects in Khashoggi’s killing should be extradited to Turkey but the Saudi Justice Minister Waleed al-Samaani stated that any trial related to the case would take place in Saudi Arabia.

“I would like to reaffirm that the royal orders and measures have confirmed — as they always do — the stable principles of justice, responsibility and transparency which epitomise the kingdom’s methods in dealing with all cases,” Samaani told Al Arabiya TV.

“Regarding time frames and processes, whether in the investigation or trial phase, these will be carried out in the framework of the judicial procedures system… Based on this, there is no specific time frame. Investigative procedures take time,” he added.

In his first public statements on the Khashoggi killing, Crown Prince Mohammed, speaking at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, described the government critic’s death as a “heinous crime that cannot be justified.”

“It is a horrible incident that is totally unjustified,” he said. “Today, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is taking all legal measures to investigate and complete investigations jointly with the Turkish government to reach results and bring those guilty to justice.”

Riyadh has continued to try to contain the fallout tied to the international outcry over the Khashoggi affair. King Salman briefed Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during phone conversations on October 25.

The king told Putin that the Saudi government was “determined to hold accountable those found guilty and to ensure they receive punishment,” the official Saudi Press Agency said. King Salman stressed to Merkel that the killing of Khashoggi “does not represent the kingdom’s principles and values.” He said justice would be administered “thoroughly and firmly.”

The Kremlin said on October 26 that Russia believed the Saudi government’s narrative concerning Khashoggi’s killing. “There’s an official statement from the king, there’s an official statement from the crown prince and no one should have any grounds not to believe them,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Erdogan’s speech October 23 was not well-received by Saudi media. It “did not add new facts,” wrote Khaled bin Hamad al-Malek in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah. He questioned “Turkish intentions,” adding that Erdogan’s speech “boosted previous leaks about the case.”

Sawsan al-Shaer of the Bahraini daily Al-Watan said: “The Khashoggi case lost its value as a card used by Erdogan to blackmail Saudi Arabia.” Omar Ayasra of Jordan’s Assabeel newspaper criticised the “indecisive address that raised questions and left the case open.”

“Turkey does not want to close the case… It manipulates and seeks more gains,” he said.