ISTANBUL (AP) – A Turkish court on Thursday ruled that the trial in absentia of 26 Saudis accused of the horrific murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi has been suspended and the case handed over to Saudi Arabia.
The decision comes despite warnings from human rights groups that turning the case over to the kingdom would lead to a cover-up of the murder, raising suspicions about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
It’s also because Turkey, which is in an economic downturn, has tried to mend its troubled relationship with Saudi Arabia and a range of other countries in the region. Some media reports claim that Riyadh has made improving relations conditional on Turkey dropping the case against the Saudis.
Last week, the prosecutor in the case recommended that the case be transferred to the kingdom, arguing that the trial in Turkey would be inconclusive. The Turkish justice minister supported the recommendation, adding that the trial would resume in Turkey if the Turkish court is not satisfied with the outcome of the proceedings in the kingdom. However, it was not clear whether Saudi Arabia, which has already tried some of the defendants behind closed doors, would open a new trial.
Human rights advocates had urged Turkey not to hand the case over to Saudi Arabia.
“By handing over the case of a murder committed on its territory, Turkey will knowingly return the case to those who bear its responsibility,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard. “Indeed, the Saudi system has repeatedly failed to cooperate with the Turkish prosecutor and it is clear that justice cannot be delivered by a Saudi court.”
“What happened to Turkey’s commitment that justice must prevail for this heinous murder and that this case will never become a pawn in political calculations and interests?” she asked.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said: “Given the complete lack of judicial independence in Saudi Arabia, the role of the Saudi government in Khashoggi’s murder, its past attempts to obstruct justice, and a criminal justice system that is not by basic standards of fairness, the chances of a fair trial for the Khashoggi case in Saudi Arabia are close to zero.”
Kaghoggi, a United States resident who wrote for the Washington Post, was murdered on October 2, 2018, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had arranged to collect the documents needed to deal with his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz. Marry. †
Turkish officials allege that Khashoggi, who wrote critically of the crown prince, was murdered in the consulate and then dismembered with a bone saw by a team of Saudi agents sent to Istanbul. The group consisted of a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers and individuals who worked for the Crown Prince’s office. Khashoggi’s remains have not been found.