Death sentences in murder of Jamal Khashoggi

Jamal Khashoggi

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announced Dec. 23 that five people have been sentenced to death and three sentenced to prison terms in connection with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year. The verdict revealed that charges had been dismissed for the remaining three of the 11 that had been on trial. The trial did not find that the killing was premeditated. Among those not indicted were two top Saudi officials, who were exonerated due to lack of evidence. Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for the Washington Post, entered the consulate to obtain marriage documents in October 2018, only to be killed there, his body dismembered and later taken from the consulate. The remains have yet to be found.

Following Khashoggi’s death there was an international outcry, calling for an investigation into Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Khashoggi was an outspoken critic of Crown Prince Mohammad; the CIA later determined that he had ordered the murder.

The United Nations issued its own report in October 2019, squarely placing the blame on Saudi Arabia for the murder, calling it premeditated and criticizing both the Saudi and Turkish governments for interfering with the investigation.

Criticism still remains surrounding the exoneration of two top officials connected to the Crown Prince, Saud al-Qahtani and Ahmed al-Assiri. Both al-Qahtani and al-Assiri were dismissed from their positions; al-Assiri was tried and released and al-Qahtani was investigated but not charged.

The Trump administration responded to the murder in November 2018 by imposing sanctionsagainst 17 Saudi citizens suspected of being involved, including al-Qahtani, who was one of the Crown Prince’s media advisors.

These death sentences still must be confirmed by Saudi higher courts.

Adam Coogle, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told the New York Times that the “opaque nature of the trial” and the complete exoneration of Saudi leadership called for further independent investigation. Coogle stated, “Saudi Arabia’s handling of the murder, from complete denial to hanging the murder on lower-level operatives in a trial that lacked transparency, demonstrates the need for an independent criminal inquiry.”

From Jurist, Dec. 23. Used with permission.

Note: The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned what it called a “sham trial” in the case, noting that the prosecutor’s office did not identify the convicted by name, and described the killing as “spontaneous.” Only those who actually carried out the killing appear to have been convicted, and none of the intellectual authors.

Photo: Committee to Protect Journalists

  1. Saudi court sentences eight in Khashoggi murder

    A Saudi court on Sept. 7 sentenced eight individuals in connection with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The court overturned the previous death sentences of five of the individuals, sentencing them to 20 years in prison instead. Two were sentenced to 10 years, and one to seven years. The names of the accused have not been made public, but media reports indicate they include a forensic doctor, individuals who worked in the Crown Prince’s office, and intelligence and security officers. The death sentences were commuted after appeals for clemency from Khashoggi’s family. (Jurist, Forbes)

  2. UN Human Rights Office blasts trial of Khashogg’s killers

    Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Commission of the UN, said in a press briefing Sept. 8 that the Saudi case on the “horrendous crime” of killing the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 has lacked “proper transparency in the justice process.”

    Colville’s statements follow reports from Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, who has extensively investigated Khashoggi’s murder and expressed similar comments on the inadequacies of the current trial. (Jurist)


  3. Turkish prosecutors indict more for Khashoggi killing

    Turkish prosecutors on Sept. 28 filed a second indictment against six Saudi individuals suspected in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Prosecutors are seeking life imprisonment for two of the suspects and up to five years in jail for the remaining four. The six suspects are not currently in Turkey, but local reports state that they could be tried in absentia. In a separate case launched in July, an Istanbul court began to try in absentia 20 other Saudis over the murder, including two former aides to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Jurist, AFP)

  4. Khashoggi murder approved by MBS: US intelligence report

    The US Director of National Intelligence issued a report Feb. 26 on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, released, finding that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman approved the operation to capture or kill the journalist. The report states that the Crown Prince viewed the journalist as a threat and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him.

    “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the report’s executive summary states. “Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that the Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization.” (Jurist)