Turkish court tries Saudis in absentia for Khashoggi killing

Turkish court tries Saudis in absentia for Khashoggi killing

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A Turkish court put 20 Saudi officials on trial in absentia on Friday for the gruesome killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi which sparked international outrage and tarnished the image of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.

Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 when he went there seeking papers for his marriage. Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, said they believed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the hit – an accusation Saudi officials denied.

Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz waited unknowing outside the consulate while, according to prosecutors, he was suffocated and his body was dismembered.

The indictment accuses two top Saudi officials, former deputy head of Saudi Arabia’s general intelligence Ahmed al-Asiri and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani, of instigating “premeditated murder with monstrous intent”.

It says 18 other defendants were flown to Turkey to kill Khashoggi, a prominent and well-connected journalist who had grown increasingly critical of the crown prince.

The defendants are being tried in absentia and are unlikely ever to be handed over by Saudi Arabia, which has accused Turkey of failing to cooperate with a separate, largely secretive, trial in Riyadh last year.

In December a Saudi court sentenced five people to death and three to jail for the killing, but Khashoggi’s family later said they forgave his murderers, effectively granting them a formal reprieve under Saudi law.

Rights campaigners hope that the Istanbul trial will throw a fresh spotlight on the case and strengthen the argument for sanctions against Riyadh or the use of universal jurisdiction, which could lead to the suspects’ arrest if they travel abroad.

“Justice in these complex environments is not delivered overnight,” Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, told Reuters on the eve of the trial.

“But a good process here can build up (evidence for) what can happen in five years, in 10 years, whenever the circumstances are stronger.”

Cengiz told Reuters this week she hoped the trial would reveal fresh evidence about her husband’s killing, in particular over how his body was disposed of. Turkish officials have said the killers may have tried to burn his remains or dissolve them in acid.

Zeki Demir, a local technician who worked for the consulate, told the court on Friday he had been called to the consul’s residence, close to the consulate itself, on the day of the killing.

“There were five to six people there… They asked me to light up the tandoor (oven). There was an air of panic,” he said.

According to the indictment Demir also reported seeing many skewers of meat, and noticed that the marble slabs around the oven appeared to have changed colour as if they had been cleaned with a chemical.

 

Saudi-led coalition starts military operation against Yemen’s Houthis

A Saudi-led coalition has started a military operation against Yemen’s Houthi movement after it stepped up cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, Saudi state television reported on Wednesday.

In Yemen, Houthi-run Al Masirah TV reported air strikes on the capital Sanaa, Marib, al-Jouf, al-Bayda, Hajjah and Saada provinces throughout the day and into the night.

Residents in Sanaa described the air raids as violent. Al Masirah said late on Wednesday a number of people had been injured there.

The Western-backed coalition with Saudi Arabia and UAE as the main partners has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement for five years. The coalition said earlier that there would be a news conference on the operation that aims to neutralise the Houthis military capabilities, Al-Ekhbariya channel and Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV said.

Last week, Houthi fighters fired missiles that reached the Saudi capital Riyadh in the first such assault since a six-week ceasefire prompted by the novel coronavirus epidemic expired in late May. The coalition said it intercepted the attack.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system.

The conflict is largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

 

 

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