Turkey’s Public Prosecutor’s Office has charged 20 Saudi Arabians in connection with the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The murder took place inside the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Details of the Indictment
According to Turkish prosecutors Saud al-Qahtani the former intelligence chief and former advisor to the royal court Ahmed al-Asiri were responsible for “instigating a premeditated murder with the intent of (causing) torment through fiendish instinct.”
The other 18 were charged with “premeditated murder with the intent of (causing) torment through fiendish instincts.”
The indictment was based on the analysis of the suspects’ mobile phone records, their entry and exit information to Turkey, their presence at the consulate, witness accounts, and Khashoggi’s mobile, tablet and iPad data.
Khashoggi’s Widow Welcomes the Charges
Khashoggi’s fiancée and widow Hatice Cengiz welcomed the indictment saying: “Not holding Jamal’s real killers accountable gives those officials a green light to continue their oppression of their people and sends wrong message to the world that the wealthy and powerful are above the law.”
Turkey began conducting its own investigation in the murder after it became dissatisfied with the denial and the conflicting statement issued by the Saudi’s in the aftermath of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“This happened in my country. How am I not going to follow up? This is our responsibility,” Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Fox News in 2019.
However, the chances of the suspects being extradited to Turkey are very minima. Last year the Saudi officials rejected Turkey’s request for their extradition, insisting that Saudi Arabia was the best place for their trial. Nevertheless, according to the Turkish prosecutors, they will still be tried in absentia.
Turkish-Saudi Relations in the Wake of the Khashoggi Murder
The Khashoggi murder — which Erdogan claims was ordered and planned by senior officials of the Saudi government — has significantly damaged ties between Ankara and Riyadh. The Turks have consistently accused Saudi officials of blocking investigations at the consulate, while the Saudis have responded to this by accusing Turkey’s prosecutors of not sharing information to help in the prosecution.
In December last year five suspects in the murder were sentenced to death and three to jail in a Saudi trial that the U.N. rapporteur for extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard described as a mockery of justice because it did not target those she described as the masterminds of the operation.
Surprisingly both Qahtani and Asiri who had been accused of having played an important role by Western and American intelligence sources were all set free by the Saudi court. Asiri was released because of lack of sufficient evidence, while Qahtani was investigated but was not charged.
Did Khashoggi Have Inside Info About Saudi Role in 9/11?
Saudi Arabia’s trouble became even more compounded a day after the Turks announced the indictments. A New York federal judge advanced a bid to include the murder of Khashoggi as part of a lawsuit seeking to hold the kingdom responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America.
According to Court House, Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn allowed the lawyer for the 9/11 families Andrew Malloney to pursue allegations of witness intimidation. This means Khashoggi could have had important information about the attacks. In late February Malloney revealed that private investigators working with him, met Khashoggi in US on Oct. 26, 2017, almost a year before he was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
That same day Khashoggi sent a text message to MBS’s brother, Khalid bin Salman — who was serving as Saudi’s Ambassador to US. Khalid would later confirm this meeting in a tweet as pressure continued to mount on his family to come clean about the disappearance of Khashoggi.
“As we told the Washington Post the last contact I had with Mr. Khashoggi was via text on Oct. 26, 2017. I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason. I ask the US government to release any information regarding this claim,” Khalid tweeted.
Investigation the Witness Intimidation Angle
Nevertheless examining the allegations of witness intimidation at a hearing earlier this month, Judge Netburn ordered the families’ lawyer to share with her privately any information documenting the alleged acts of witness intimidation with regards .
In his submission Saudi Arabia’s attorney Michael Kellogg reacted to this by moving to strike them for the record or identify the witnesses making them so that they could be investigated
However Judge Netburn shot down the submission in a terse, 1-page ruling that ordered “attorneys for the 9/11 families to share information with her under seal about any efforts to inform the Department of Justice about the alleged acts of intimidation.”
Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2, 2018, where he had gone to obtain documents for his planned wedding to Cengiz. Turkish intelligence later revealed that he was murdered in the consulate and his body dismembered before being carried out of the building for disposal. Turkey further claimed that that a special team had been dispatched from Riyadh with the specific aim of eliminating the American resident and prominent columnist.
Saudi Arabia initially denied the murder, but eventually admitted it after Turkey produced more evidence in the form of intelligence information that had been obtained secretly from the building. Even then the Kingdom still gave conflicting accounts of what had transpired in the consulate.