Khashoggi trial: truth impossible from trial with no public or journalists

After a Saudi court today issued final verdicts and sentences on appeal in the Jamal Khashoggi murder case, giving eight unidentified defendants sentences ranging from 7 to 20 years in prison, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its position that only an independent international investigation will be able to render justice in this case.

The Saudi TV channel Al Arabiya reported that, according to the public prosecutor’s office, the five defendants sentenced to death at the original trial were given 20-year jail terms, while the other three were given sentences ranging from 7 to 10 years in prison. In all, the jail sentences totalled 124 years. As in the original trial, the court maintained that the journalist’s murder was not premeditated.


“The total of 124 years in prison for those convicted of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder gives the impression that justice has been administered in an appropriate manner, but we must not forget that the trial was held behind closed doors and therefore did not respect basic principles of justice” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.


“This trial with no public and no journalists has not revealed the truth and has not enabled us to learn what happened in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 and who gave the prior order to commit this state murder. As premeditation was ruled out, we are asked to believe that matters got out of control, but a great deal of evidence demonstrates the contrary. We nonetheless note with satisfaction that the court abandoned the death sentences originally imposed on some of the defendants.”


There were 11 defendants at the original trial but the court acquitted three of them for lack of evidence when it issued its verdict in December 2019. They included a close adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. They also included Gen. Ahmad Al-Assiri, the deputy head of intelligence, who was suspected of supervising the murder.


Turkey, the country where the murder took place, began holding its own trial in July. RSF is registered as in interested party so that it can attend the proceedings, in which those accused are being tried in absentia.


Saudi Arabia is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 07.09.2020