Wed, 27 May 2020

Khashoggi murder: Saudi Arabia seeks death penalty for five

By Sheetal Sukhija, Dubai News.Net
16 Nov 2018, 05:09 GMT+10

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A day after Turkey said that suspects in the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi should be tried in a Turkish court observed by international human rights groups, the Kingdom indicted the suspects. 

On Wednesday, while addressing a news conference, Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party revealed that Turkish authorities had prepared an extradition request for 18 suspects detained in Saudi Arabia.

Celik said, "Let the human rights units from all respected organizations, from the United Nations to the European Union, come and watch this trial. Let them judge whether the trial fits the standards of international law."

Turkey claims that the 18 suspects include a 15-man hit-squad that the country alleges arrived in Istanbul shortly before the killing and carried out the brutal act.

The veteran journalist and a Washington Post columnist, Khashoggi disappeared after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month.

Turkey alleges that the journalist, who was a prominent critic of the Kingdom's policies and of the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, was murdered by the 15-man team, based on orders from the "highest levels" of the Saudi government.

Turkish officials have alleged that the 'hit squad' strangled and dismembered Khashoggi at the consulate and claim that his body may have been chemically dissolved as it has not yet been discovered.

Further, Turkey has shared an alleged audio recording of Khashoggi's killing with Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Canada.

Since making the allegations, Turkey had maintained that even though the murder was carried out inside a Saudi diplomatic mission, the suspects should be tried in a Turkish court because the crime occurred on its territory.

However, Riyadh has argued that the suspects will be prosecuted in Saudi Arabia.

Death penalty for murder

A day after Turkey's calls for a trial of the suspects in the presence of international human rights groups, Saudi Arabia made a statement about the suspects.

In a statement on Thursday, Saudi prosecutors indicted 11 suspects and said that they were requesting the death penalty for five of them over Khashoggi's murder.

Calling for a rare press conference, the Kingdom's top prosecutor Saudi Al-Mojeb stated that Khashoggi's killers had planned the murder on September 29 - three days before the journalist disappeared.

Al-Mojeb said that currently, at least 21 people were in custody in the country. 

The top prosecutor further said that the former Saudi Deputy Intelligence Chief General Ahmad al-Assiri - who was fired for allegedly ordering Khashoggi to return to the consulate - was the highest-level official behind the killing.

Apart from implicating General al-Assiri, the Saudi prosecutor's office did not mention any other names of those indicted for the murder.

Following the top prosecutors' announcement, Saudi Arabia's deputy public prosecutor, Shaalan al-Shaalan told reporters that "the incident" began on September 29.

He said that a "former" deputy chief of intelligence ordered the "leader of the mission" to "bring back the victim by means of persuasion, and if persuasion fails, to do so by force."

The Saudi prosecutor said that the leader of the mission then put together a 15-member team to "return" the journalist from Turkey.

Adding that the team included a forensics expert "for the purpose of removing evidence from the scene" and a local collaborator tasked with securing a safe house "in case force had to be used to return the victim."

According to Al-Shalaan, the negotiating team leader released on the morning of October 2 that he would not be able to force Khashoggi to return, "so he decided to kill him in the moment."

He added that the journalist was killed using a lethal injection, adding that his body was dismembered and taken out of the building.

The prosecutor claims that Khashoggi's body parts were "delivered" to the local collaborator, after which another man put on Khashoggi's clothes and posed as the journalist exiting the consulate. 

The prosecutors have listed drug overdose as the official cause of Khashoggi's death.

According to the Saudi officials, cameras inside the consulate were disabled during the drugging and dismemberment of Khashoggi.

In addition to the 21 people who are in custody, Al-Shaalan said that a former adviser to the royal court, Saud al-Qahtani, has been banned from traveling.

Al-Qahtani is reported to be under investigation. 

Sanctions and disbelief

While Turkey has dismissed the Saudi prosecutor's statement as inadequate, the U.S. reacted by slapping sanctions on 17 Saudi officials over their role in Khashoggi's murder.

The U.S. Treasury Department designated 17 Saudi Arabians for their alleged involvement in the killing of Khashoggi and imposed sanctions that freeze any assets under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit Americans from dealings with them.

In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that all of the 17 were "involved in the abhorrent killing" that "targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States [and] must face consequences for their actions."

Further, Mnuchin indicated that the U.S. would continue investigating to determine whether others were also responsible and said that "the government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists."

The sanctions list by the U.S. included a former senior aide to the crown prince Saud al-Qahtani, Qahtani's subordinate Maher Mutreb and the Saudi consul general in Istanbul Mohammed al-Otaibi.

The Treasury said that the other 14 were "members of an operations team" who had a role in the killing.

The sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, which empowers the United States to sanction human rights abusers abroad.

In a statement after the Treasury Department's sanctions were announced, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that "at the time of the killing," the sanctioned individuals "occupied positions in the Royal Court and several ministries and offices of the Government of Saudi Arabia."

Pompeo said, "Our action today is an important step in responding to Khashoggi's killing. The State Department will continue to seek all relevant facts, consult Congress, and work with other nations to hold accountable those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi."

Meanwhile, responding to Saudi's indictment, Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu insisted that the killing was "premeditated" and called the Saudi announcement "insufficient."

Demanding that all the suspects be extradited and "tried in accordance with Turkish law," Cavusoglu said, "Turkish law is applicable in this case, even though the murder took place in the Saudi consulate."

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