FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2018 file photo, a video image of Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is played during an event to remember Khashoggi, who died inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, in Washington. A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced five people to death for the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year by a team of Saudi agents. Saudi Arabia’s state TV reported Monday, Dec. 23, 2019 that three others were sentenced to prison. All can appeal the verdicts. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2018 file photo, a video image of Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is played during an event to remember Khashoggi, who died inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, in Washington. A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced five people to death for the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year by a team of Saudi agents. Saudi Arabia’s state TV reported Monday, Dec. 23, 2019 that three others were sentenced to prison. All can appeal the verdicts. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Saudis sentence 5 people to death for Khashoggi’s killing

Washington Post columnist and royal family critic Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul

A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death Monday for the killing of Washington Post columnist and royal family critic Jamal Khashoggi, whose grisly slaying in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul drew international condemnation and cast a cloud of suspicion over Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Three other people were found guilty by Riyadh’s criminal court of covering up the crime and were sentenced to a combined 24 years in prison, according to a statement read by the Saudi attorney general’s office on state TV.

In all, 11 people were put on trial in Saudi Arabia over the killing. The names of those found guilty were not disclosed by the government. Executions in the kingdom are carried out by beheading, sometimes in public. All the verdicts can be appealed.

A small number of diplomats, including from Turkey, as well as members of Khashoggi’s family were allowed to attend the nine court sessions, though independent media were barred.

While the case in Saudi Arabia has largely concluded, questions linger outside Riyadh about the crown prince’s culpability in the slaying.

“The decision is too unlawful to be acceptable,” Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said in a text message to The Associated Press. “It is unacceptable.”

Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the United Nations, tweeted that the verdicts are a “mockery” and that the masterminds behind the crime “have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial.” Amnesty International called the outcome “a whitewash which brings neither justice nor truth.”

Khashoggi, who was a resident of the U.S., had walked into his country’s consulate on Oct. 2, 2018, for a appointment to pick up documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancee. He never walked out, and his body has not been found.

A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the consulate. They included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers and individuals who worked for the crown prince’s office, according to Callamard’s independent investigation. Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw.

The slaying stunned Saudi Arabia’s Western allies and immediately raised questions about how the high-level operation could have been carried out without the knowledge of Prince Mohammed — even as the kingdom insists the crown prince had nothing to do with the killing.

In an interview in September with CBS’ “60 Minutes”, Prince Mohammed said: “I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia.” But he reiterated that he had no knowledge of the operation, saying he could not keep such close track of the country’s millions of employees.

READ MORE: Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty in Khashoggi’s killing

The prince’s father, King Salman, ordered a shake-up of top security posts after the killing.

Turkey, a rival of Saudi Arabia, has used the killing on its soil to pressure the kingdom. Turkey, which had demanded the suspects be tried there, apparently had the Saudi Consulate bugged and has shared audio of the killing with the C.I.A., among others.

Saudi Arabia initially offered shifting accounts about Khashoggi’s disappearance. As international pressure mounted because of the Turkish leaks, the kingdom eventually settled on the explanation that he was killed by rogue officials in a brawl.

The trial concluded the killing was not premeditated, according to Shaalan al-Shaalan, a spokesperson from the Saudi attorney general’s office.

The 101-page report released this year by Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, included details from the audio Turkish authorities shared with her. She reported hearing Saudi agents waiting for Khashoggi to arrive and one of them asking how they would carry out the body.

Not to worry, the doctor said. “Joints will be separated. It is not a problem,” he said in the audio. “If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them.”

Khashoggi had spent the last year of his life in exile in the U.S. writing in the Post about human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. At a time when Prince Mohammed’s social reforms were being widely hailed in the West, Khashoggi’s columns criticized the parallel crackdown on dissent the prince was overseeing. Numerous critics of the Saudi crown prince are in prison and face trial on national security charges.

In Washington, Congress has said it believes Prince Mohammed is “responsible for the murder.” President Donald Trump has condemned the killing but has stood by the 34-year-old crown prince and defended U.S.-Saudi ties. Washington has sanctioned 17 Saudis suspected of being involved.

Q&A: One year on, Khashoggi’s fiancee still seeking answers

Among those sanctioned is Saud al-Qahtani, a hawkish former adviser to the crown prince. The Saudi attorney general’s office said Monday that al-Qahtani was investigated and had no proven involvement in the killing.

Meanwhile, Ahmed al-Asiri, also a former adviser to the crown prince who was deputy head of intelligence, was tried and released because of insufficient evidence, the attorney general’s office said.

The court also ordered the release of Saudi Arabia’s consul-general in Istanbul at the time, Mohammed al-Otaibi. He is among those sanctioned by the U.S. over his “involvement in gross violations of human rights.” The U.S. State Department has also issued travel bans against his immediate family.

One of Kashoggi’s sons, Salah, who lives in Saudi Arabia, tweeted after the verdicts that the Saudi judicial system “was fair to us and achieved justice.”

In Turkey, Yasin Aktay, a member of Turkey’s ruling party and a friend of Khashoggi’s, criticized the verdict, saying the Saudi court had failed to bring the real perpetrators to justice.

“The prosecutor sentenced five hit men to death but did not touch those who were behind the five,” Aktay said.

Although Khashoggi’s killing tarnished Prince Mohammed’s reputation in the West, he is hugely popular at home, especially among young Saudis happy with the social changes he has ushered in. Some American executives who had stayed away because of the backlash over the slaying have resumed doing business with the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia over the past months has opened the previously closed-off country to tourists and travellers from around the world as part of a push to boost the economy and change perceptions of the kingdom.

___

Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

Abdullah Al-Shihri And Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Quesnel RCMP Detachment is one of seven northern police buildings which can now connect directly to Prince George for daily bail hearings. (Observer File Photo)
Bail hearings going virtual in B.C.’s north

A court pilot project will see virtual courtroom cameras set up in seven RCMP detatchments

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The fence option chosen for the 461 Quatsino Boulevard development is the red lines that border the site plan. The fence will be roughly six feet high with the exception of the fence bordering Cranberry Street which will be eight feet high. (Boni Maddison Architects photo)
Fence to be erected between housing project and Kitimat homeowners

Residents of the Cranberry Street area are finally getting the fence they want

Rising demand for police to perform well-being checks and field calls for people struggling with domestic violence cases is driving the city to formulate a ‘situation table’ to connect vulnerable people with the services they need. (News Bulletin file photo)
Situation Table comes to Kitimat to support vulnerable people

Situation Tables identify and help vulnerable people in need.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

British Columbia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Wildfire fanned by winds near Merritt prompts evacuation alert

BC Wildfire Service says the suspected human-caused blaze was fanned by winds

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
National fitness group condemns unlicensed Kelowna gym’s anti-vaccine policy

The Fitness Industry Council of Canada says Flow Academy is shining a negative light on the industry

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Most Read