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

Fraser Health has included Brookswood Secondary School to its list of COVID-19 school exposures, alongside exposure events at Aldergrove Community Secondary and Betty Gilbert Middle schools. (Google Maps)
8 Langley schools now on COVID exposure list, 3 added on Tuesday

Public Health has initiated contact tracing

THROUGH YOUR LENS: Frosty came for a visit this past weekend to Sharon Vose’s South Langley home. Her grandchildren erected the snowman in her backyard. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
SHARE: Frosty returned for a short visit

Send us your photo showing how you view Langley, and it could be featured in a future edition

Langley RCMP say they arrested two suspected mail thieves Tuesday morning. (Black Press Media files)
Aldergrove mail thieves caught with letters scattered in Jeep

Both suspects were violating probation orders, police say

Sam Darkoh in his music video ‘Ruby Fever’ which was shot in Yarrow. (Sterling Gold Production)
VIDEO: Yarrow, Chilliwack backdrop for professionally shot music video of Aldergrove rapper

Lots of hospitality, kind people while filming Ruby Fever, says hip-hop artist Sam Darkoh

This suspect allegedly stole a charity donation jar from a Langley store in November. (Langley RCMP/Special to the Langley RCMP)
Thief snatches charity donation jar from Langley store

The suspect is one of several Langley Mounties are searching for linked to recent thefts

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
RCMP appeal for witnesses after hit-and-run leaves girl, 17, in critical condition

The Metro Vancouver teenager was found unconscious and critically injured after being hit: police

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read