News

January 7, 2020

Fiancée of murdered Saudi journalist in Berlin for political talks

Photo AFP / John MACDOUGALL
Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, met high-ranking German politicians at the end of December to give them a first-hand account of the status of the investigations into the case. She took the opportunity to argue that relations with Saudi Arabia must not return to normal as long as the Kingdom continues to hinder a thorough investigation of the crime. Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 by a hit squad from Saudi Arabia. But to this day it remains unclear what happened to his body or who commissioned the crime.

Who gave the orders for this cruel crime? To what extent was the Saudi leadership, including the crown prince, involved in the case? Until these questions have been answered, the German government needs to exert far more pressure on Saudi Arabia,” said Christian Mihr, Executive Director of RSF Germany. “We support Hatice Cengiz in her campaign for those responsible to be called to account.”

 

Cengiz, a Turkish citizen and PhD student with a Master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies, stayed in Berlin at the invitation of Reporters Without Borders Germany (RSF Germany) and met with Bärbel Kofler, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, a representative of the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and representatives of the Bundestag’s Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid and Committee on Economic Affairs and Energy. RSF Germany held a press conference with Cengiz on 20 December.

 

Another topic of discussion was the international community’s reactions to Khashoggi’s murder, and the German government’s role, also with regard to Saudi Arabia’s G-20 presidency which began at the start of December. Germany imposed a ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia in reaction to the murder. The state of press freedom in Saudi Arabia was also discussed. Under Mohammed bin Salman’s de facto regency, the number of imprisoned journalists and bloggers has more than doubled, with at least 32 currently behind bars. This places Saudi Arabia among the three countries with the most imprisoned journalists, alongside Egypt and China.

 

Before his death, Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile in the US and working as a columnist for the Washington Post. Saudi Arabia continues to hinder investigations into his murder. The Kingdom initially denied that a crime had been committed, then admitted responsibility but described the murder as the result of unplanned actions on the part of the operatives directly involved.        

 

Eleven men are currently being tried for the murder in a closed trial in Saudi Arabia. Five of them face the death penalty; their execution would potentially cover up the truth behind Khashoggi’s murder for good. A close confidante of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who was initially named as an accomplice is not among the accused. Only Turkey and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are occasionally permitted to send observers to the trial, but they are not allowed to make anything that is disclosed in the proceedings public.

 

The crown prince admitted in an interview broadcast by a US television channel at the end of September that he bore political responsibility for the crime. But he insisted that he neither gave orders for it to be carried out nor had any knowledge of the operation – which in light of all the details that have emerged about the murder is very likely a lie. Saudi Arabia refused to cooperate with a UN special rapporteur’s investigation of the crime.

 

Saudi Arabia is ranked 172nd out of 180 states on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. For further information about the situation of journalists in the country, please visit https://rsf.org/en/saudi-arabia