Rights groups denounce Turkey’s ‘terrible’ decision to transfer Khashoggi murder case to Saudi Arabia

Istanbul — A Turkish court on Thursday confirmed the cessation of the trial of 26 suspects linked to the trial in absentia murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi and its transfer to Riyadh, a decision that has outraged human rights groups. The 59-year-old journalist was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, in a horrific murder that shocked the world.

A Turkish court began the trial in 2020 amid tense relations between the two Sunni Islamist regional powers. But with Turkey desperate for investment to get it out of the economic crisis, Ankara has tried to close the gap with Riyadh.

The judge told the court: “We have decided to stop and transfer the case to Saudi Arabia.”

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and his fiancée Hatice Cengiz are pictured in an undated photo from Cengiz’s Twitter account.

Hatice Cengiz/Twitter

The court’s ruling comes almost a week after Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said he had refused a Turkish prosecutor’s request to transfer the case to Saudi Arabia, at the latter’s request. The prosecutor said the case was “dragging” because since the defendants were foreigners, the court’s orders could not be carried out.

Entrusting “the lamb to the wolf”

Lawyer Ali Ceylan told the court on Thursday that there would be no fair trial in Saudi Arabia.

“Let’s not entrust the lamb to the wolf,” he said with a Turkish proverb.

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Another lawyer, Gokmen Baspinar, said the move by the Justice Ministry was “against the law”.

“There is currently no prosecution in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “The Saudi authorities have completed the trial and acquitted many suspects.”

He said the decision to transfer the case to Riyadh would amount to a “violation of Turkish sovereignty” and “an example of irresponsibility towards the Turkish people”.

The decision has deeply angered human rights groups. The Istanbul tribunal “agreed to hand the case over to the Saudi authorities — in one sentence, just like that. It didn’t even bother to say that the lawyers’ requests were denied,” Amnesty International’s Milena Buyum said.

She tweeted: “Terrible and clearly political decision.”

Five people were sentenced to death by the kingdom for Khashoggi’s murder, but a Saudi court in September 2020 overturned the sentences and handed prison terms of up to 20 years to eight unnamed suspects after secret legal proceedings.

Fiance promises she will “keep fighting”

Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz, who attended the hearing on Thursday, said she would appeal the decision.

Turkey “is not ruled by a family like Saudi Arabia. We have a legal system that addresses citizens’ grievances,” she told journalists outside Istanbul’s main court. “We will appeal the decision in accordance with our legal system.”

Speaking to AFP, she promised “to continue fighting. Those who give up have given up. I will continue. Sometimes the legal battle itself is more important than the results.”

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In an interview with AFP in February, Cengiz urged Ankara to press for justice despite the rapprochement with Saudi Arabia.

“To make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again… (Turkey) should not leave this case,” she said.

Cengiz had been waiting outside the consulate for Khashoggi when he was killed. He had gone there to obtain paperwork to marry her. His remains have never been found.

Early 2021 will Cengiz said the heir to the Saudi throne “must be punished without delay” after a US intelligence report published by the Biden administration blamed him for the brutal murder of the writer

The intelligence report, prepared months earlier but only made public by the White House in March 2021, concluded that “Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to arrest or arrest Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.” to kill.”

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About a year after the murder, bin Salman . said told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell he “absolutely” did not order Khashoggi’s murder, but insisted that he “take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government”.

Economic woes shift the political tone

To Riyadh’s dismay, Turkey went ahead with the Khashoggi case, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said at the time that the order to kill him came from the “highest levels” of the government.

Then Saudi Arabia unofficially tried to put pressure on the Turkish economy, boycotting Turkish imports.

Last year, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Riyadh to mend the fences with the kingdom.

The transfer of the business to Riyadh removes the last obstacle to normalization of the tires.

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Erdogan has sought to improve ties with regional rivals, including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, in the face of: increasing diplomatic isolation which has dried up foreign investment, especially from the West.

In January, he said he was planning a trip to Saudi Arabia as the economy was going through a tumultuous period. Annual inflation in Turkey rose to 61.1 percent on Monday, according to official data.

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