A Saudi prosecutor announced his intention to seek the death penalty for five out of the 11 suspects in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a trial held in Riyadh Thursday.
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that 11 suspects attended the first session of the trial but neither their names nor their involvement in the assassination was revealed.
Five Saudi high-ranking officials including a palace insider, Saud al-Qahtani, were fired for the Khashoggi murder. However, the Saudi authority did not mention whether they are among suspects in the murder that attracted the worldwide attention.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, was killed in the Saudi consulate office in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2, 2018. According to the Turkish authority, the journalist was choked and his body was dismembered by a 15-man team sent to Istanbul for the mission. Turkish media outlets also reported that Khashoggi’s body was never found as it was dissolved in chemical liquid.
After denying the murder several times, the Saudi administration finally admitted that the outspoken journalist was murdered in the consulate building.
U.N Calls For an Independent Investigation
The UN Human Rights High Commissioner admitted finding it hard to determine whether Thursday’s trial was fair or not. According to the international body, the trial in Riyadh did not sufficiently reveal all the facts behind the murder.
The commissioner’s spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani called for an international investigation involving international bodies.
“We, as you know, have been pressing for justice in the Khashoggi case for months now. We have been calling for an investigation, an independent investigation, with international involvement, and this has not happened yet,” she said in a statement.
Shamdasani also stressed that the UN is against the death sentence for the suspects.
The CIA and others have accused Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of giving the order to kill Khashoggi, but the Saudi court stated the prince was not involved in the saga.
A few weeks after the journalist’s death, a report stated that a close aide of the 33-year-old prince ordered the killing after quoting sources from two Saudi unidentified intelligence officers.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Saudi to disclose the figure who ordered the killing and tell the location of Khashoggi’s body.
A recent Turkish book titled Diplomatic Atrocity claimed that the main suspects in the assassination, including senior aides of MBS, have not been arrested yet but are enjoying a luxury life away from home.
Saudi set up three new government bodies to facilitate intelligence operations following the Khashoggi’s death. The newly-set up agencies will make sure that intelligence operations are in line with national security policy, international law, and human rights.
Western Response to Khashoggi scandal
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton are planning to visit the Middle East to bolster ties with the region on the agenda is to press Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s killing.
Despite MBS’ alleged involvement in Khashoggi’s murder and Saudi’s involvement in bloodshed in Yemen, the US is keeping close ties with Saudi Arabia. As a result, Trump has been criticized at home for failing to hold MBS accountable for the killing and for claiming there is no evidence that the prince was involved in the murder despite the CIA saying to the contrary.
Khashoggi’s death has also not prevented Saudi’s Western allies from selling weapons to the country. While some Western officials have called for punishing Saudi Arabia for the tragedy, arms sales continue.
Just recently, a delegation from the U.K. Defense and Security Organization – an office within the Department for International Trade that deals with arms exports for UK firms – took a trip to Riyadh on 14 and 22 October, as the Mirror reported.