Turkey: RSF shocked by Khashoggi murder proceedings's transfer to Saudi Arabia

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is deeply shocked by Istanbul High Criminal Court's decision to send Jamal Khashoggi murder case to Saudi Arabia. This transfer dashes the remaining hopes of criminal justice for the 2018 assassination. RSF will keep on challenging by all means this unacceptable impunity.

On 7 April, Istanbul 11. High Criminal Court decided to transfer Jamal Khashoggi murder file to Saudi Arabia, where the death squad killer team was coming from. Before the final decision, Khahosggi's fiancée Hatice Cengiz's lawyers asked in vain the Court to wait for the Administrative Court decision to be given against the Justice Ministry's approval on the transfer of the case to Riyadh.

As a result Turkey closed the Khashoggi file at once. Lawyers can still challenge the ruling to the upper Court (12. High criminal court) but overturning this strategic decision seems hardly possible.

"RSF is deeply shocked by Istanbul 11. High Criminal Court's decision to send Jamal Khashoggi murder file back to Saudi Arabia, said RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu. Hopes of justice have been dashed but RSF will keep on challenging by all means this unacceptable impunity."

On 31 March, in the latest hearing in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder trial at Istanbul’s Çağlayan Court, after 21 months of proceedings, the Turkish prosecutor had supported Saudi Arabia formal requested to take over the case and called for the case to be handed over and Turkish proceedings brought to a close. His recommeandations were strictly followed by 11. High Criminal Court.

RSF has been the only NGO to monitor the full proceedings in Istanbul, which opened in July 2020. Twenty-six defendants - all Saudi nationals - are being tried in absentia, with legal representation appointed by the Istanbul Bar Association. RSF had applied to become a civil party to the case, but the application was rejected by the court in November 2020. In March 2021, the court rejected the request by Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz to accept into evidence the declassified US intelligence report naming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as responsible for approving Khashoggi’s murder.

Saudi Arabia held its own secretive trial in the case in 2020, which failed to meet fair trial standards and made a mockery of justice. Eight unidentified defendants were reportedly given sentences ranging from 7 to 20 years in prison. A further three defendants were acquitted, including senior Saudi officials. The country’s broader press freedom record remains dismal with a total of 28 journalists jailed in connection with their work, and blogger Raif Badawi subjected to a travel ban following his recent release from prison on completion of a 10-year sentence.

Turkey is ranked 153rd and Saudi Arabia is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 07.04.2022