Turkey and international rights groups on Tuesday led condemnation of a Saudi court verdict over the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, saying it failed to deliver justice.
Five people were sentenced to death on Monday over the brutal killing of the writer by a team of Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul last October, but two top aides to powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) – the de facto Saudi leader – were exonerated.
Khashoggi, a United States-based journalist, was a fierce critic of the Saudi leader. He was killed just a few days to his wedding with his body dismembered and his remains that had not been seen since the incident suspected to have been dissolved in acid.
Rights groups and rest of the international community had accused Mohammed bin Salman of ordering the killing, but the Saudi authorities insisted that he played no role in the heinous crime.
The Saudi prosecutor’s office said a total of 31 people were investigated in connection with the killing, and that 11 people were charged. Three were handed jail terms totalling 24 years and the rest were acquitted. None of the defendants’ names was immediately released.
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“The investigation showed that the killing was not premeditated … The decision was taken at the spur of the moment,” Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor, Shalaan al-Shalaan said, a position contradicting the findings of a United Nations-led investigation.
Ahmed Benchemsi, spokesman for Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that the trial was “all but satisfactory.”
The case was “shrouded in secrecy since the beginning, and it’s still … until now … We do not know the identities of those masked perpetrators, we don’t know the specific charge levelled against who exactly,” Benchemsi said.
“Saudi prosecutors did not even attempt to investigate the upper levels of this crime, and whether they played a role in ordering the killing, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” he added.