Kashoggi last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul
Johannesburg – A Turkish prosecutor has called for the trial of the Saudi Arabian suspects over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi to be halted and moved to Saudi. This is seen as a move by Turkey to repair their relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi, a journalist who was a prominent critic of the crown prince, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in October 2018. Twenty-six Saudi nationals have been charged in the slaying of Khashoggi. The call to close the trial in absentia is due to the lack of progress on the case which comes from no statements being taken and the Turkish government unable to find the suspects.
Na’eem Jeenah, Executive Director of the Afro Middle East Centre (AMEC), believes that moving the case to Saudi Arabia is exactly what the Saudi government wants.
“Let me say I think that the attempt now is to make it go away. The court will meet again on the 7th of April and make a decision about whether the case should continue in Turkey or whether it should be moved to Saudi. If it decides on the latter, then essentially that will be the end of the story.”
According to Jeenah, Khashoggi’s murder was a political one by the Saudi state. Turkish officials said they believe the murder was ordered from the highest levels. These accusations strained ties between the two powers and led to an unofficial boycott of Turkish goods in Saudi Arabia. There has been a 90% decrease in Ankara’s exports to the kingdom.
Turkey’s economy has been hard hit in the past few years, and this has seen President Erdogan trying to mend ties with states that have become bitter rivals. Handing this case over to Saudi Arabia will be a big contributor in repairing the relationship between Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said Jeenah.
“The Saudis have never wanted this trial to take place. They claimed that they have dealt with the matter already. They tried eight unnamed people in Saudi Arabia. Their argument is that it’s been dealt with already … Using procedural reasons, the prosecutor is asking for the case to be moved to Saudi Arabia. There’s a good chance that the court will just decide on the 7th of April, that is what’s going to happen. Once it gets moved to Saudi Arabia that will be the end of the story and from the Turkish perspective the beginning of a new relationship with Saudi Arabia.”
The claims that eight people have been tried has been dubbed a “sham trial” by Amnesty International. They fear the same will happen if the case is turned over to Saudi Arabia. The reasons given for wanting to give the case to Saudi are fully known to the prosecution said Jeenah.
“When they decided right at the beginning to try these two-dozen people in absentia, everyone knew, and the prosecution would have known and the court would have known at that time that there are certain challenges involved with trying someone in absentia. Especially when the country where these people are nationals is not being cooperative, is not going to hand them over, is not going to provide any information … That can’t be something that the prosecutor just realised in the past few weeks. That is definitely something that the prosecution, the court, and Turkish politicians knew from the very beginning when this trial had started.”
If the court case does get moved to Saudi Arabia, there is still hope for justice to be attained. There remains a lawsuit in a US federal court. This is filed by Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, and the US-based advocacy group Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), which Khashoggi established and ran before his untimely death.
This lawsuit is beyond the reach of Turkey. The only thing left is for the US judge to rule whether the court has jurisdiction. If he does, it could lead to a wealth of new information.
The Turkish intelligence are already in possession of an audiotape of the murder which was verified by the CIA (Criminal Intelligence Agency) and both have said that the Crown Prince sanctioned the operation to kill and dismember Khashoggi.
This is damning evidence on its own. The plaintiffs are asking for never before seen material from different agencies to be released.
Riyadh has pledged to evaluate the accusations against the twenty-six suspects should the case be handed over to them.
Naéem Jeenah spoke with Inayet Wadee: