Murder trial in Jamal Khashoggi’s case continues in Turkish court

On 24 November, a hearing was held in Istanbul’s Çağlayan court in the case of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, in which 26 defendants now stand trial for his murder. Although the court rejected the application of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to become a civil party in the case, RSF representatives were able to monitor the hearing. The trial is set to continue on 4 March.

RSF was the only international NGO present in court for the second hearing in Khashoggi’s murder trial, which was monitored by RSF Director of International Campaigns Rebecca Vincent, Director of RSF Germany Christian Mihr, and RSF Turkey Representative Erol Önderoglu. The court rejected RSF’s application to become a civil party in the case, stating that the organisation had not been directly affected by the crime.

“We are disappointed by the court’s rejection of our application to become a civil party, which would have given us access to court documents and allowed us to more robustly scrutinise the case. Regardless, we will continue to monitor the case closely and call for adherence to international standards. The Turkish courts have an important role to play in ensuring accountability for this horrific crime, and must keep proceedings fair and open - in stark contrast to the mockery of justice that took place in Saudi Arabia,” said RSF Director of International Campaigns Rebecca Vincent.

In the 24 November hearing, a second indictment naming six additional defendants was merged with the first indictment, bringing the total number of defendants to 26 - all Saudi nationals. They were represented by lawyers appointed by the Istanbul Bar Association, and the judge stated he would issue arrest warrants due to the defendants’ failure to appear in court. 

Witness testimony was given by Ayman Nour, the former head of an Egyptian opposition party and investor in Egyptian media in Turkey, who had known Khashoggi for 39 years. Nour spoke of Khashoggi’s fear following threats he reported receiving from Saud al-Qahtani, a former aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  

The hearing immediately followed the 21-22 November G20 summit in Riyadh, in which G20 states failed to meaningfully engage with host state Saudi Arabia on the need for immediate press freedom improvements in the country, including justice for Khashoggi and the release of 34 jailed journalists. RSF culminated its months-long advocacy and campaigning efforts by hijacking the official #G20SaudiArabia hashtag with a message in support of press freedom.

RSF also continues to campaign for the release of dozens of journalists imprisoned in Turkey and broader press freedom improvements in the country.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia are respectively ranked 154th and 170th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 24.11.2020