Jamal Khashoggi murder: Saudi court hands death penalty to 5
Over a year after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death in connection with the incident. Reportedly, three others were sentenced to jail terms totaling 24 years for the murder of Khashoggi (59), a journalist for The Washington Post and a known critic of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). Here are more details.
Reportedly, five of the convicts have been handed the death penalty, three will remain imprisoned for 24 years, and three others were acquitted, public prosecutor Shalaan al-Shalaan said. Eleven unnamed suspects were put on trial for Khashoggi's murder, which the prosecutor described as a "rogue operation." All 11 defendants may appeal against the verdict, deputy public prosecutor, Shalaan bin Rajih Shalaal said.
After nine sessions, the trial concluded that the murder of Khashoggi was not pre-meditated. On the contrary, in October, Saudi Arabia had admitted that the murder was pre-meditated. 18 people were arrested and two Saudi officials sacked. Interestingly, both officials—deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri and royal adviser to the Prince, Saud al-Qahtani—were not found guilty of Khashoggi's murder.
Al-Assiri had been accused of overseeing Khashoggi's killing while al-Qahtani was said to have ordered it. Al-Qahtani was not charged "due to insufficient evidence" and released, while al-Assiri was charged, but acquitted anyway on the same grounds.
On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to collect documents ahead of his wedding. Reportedly, his body was dismembered and removed from the building. His remains are yet to be discovered. The Saudi government initially claimed he left the building alive, however, later said he was strangled during a fistfight involving over a dozen Saudi officials inside the consulate.
After news of the journalist's death broke, the Kingdom faced international criticism and a diplomatic crisis likened to the one following 9/11. Human Rights Watch also said that the closed-door trial proceedings did not meet international standards and Saudi authorities had "obstructed meaningful accountability." Separately, the US intelligence agency CIA said the Crown Prince likely ordered the killing, however, he denied this claim.