Turkey charges 20 Saudi nationals as probe into murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi ends

Turkish prosecutors have formally charged two former aides of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and 18 other Saudi nationals over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, officials have said.

The Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office said it has completed its investigation into Khashoggi‘s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and has indicted 20 Saudi nationals.

The killing drew international condemnation and cast a cloud of suspicion over Prince Mohammed.

All suspects have left Turkey, and Saudi Arabia has rejected Ankara’s calls for their return to face trial in Turkey.

Riyadh insisted the kingdom’s courts are the correct place for them to be tried and has put 11 people on trial over the killing.

The Turkish indictment charges the prince’s former advisers, Saud al-Qahtani and Ahmed al-Asiri, with “instigating a premeditated murder with the intent of (causing) torment through fiendish instinct”, according to chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan’s office.

The indictment also calls for life prison sentences for 18 other Saudi nationals charged with “premeditated murder with the intent of (causing) torment through fiendish instincts”.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was a resident of the US, had walked into his country’s consulate on 2 October 2018, for an appointment to pick up documents that would allow him to marry.

He never walked out, and his body has not been found.

A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet him inside the consulate. They included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers and individuals who worked for the crown prince’s office, according to a report last year by UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard.

Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw.

Fidan’s office said the 18 suspects are accused of “acting in consensus from the beginning in line with the decision of taking the victim back to Saudi Arabia and of killing him if he did not agree”.

It was not immediately clear if the suspects would be tried in their absence.

The trial in Saudi Arabia last year concluded that the killing was not premeditated, prompting widespread criticism of a whitewash.

Five people were sentenced to death while three others were found guilty of covering up the crime and were sentenced to a combined 24 years in prison.

Saudi authorities have said al-Qahtani was investigated and had no proven involvement in the killing, while al-Asiri was tried and released because of insufficient evidence.

Saudi Arabia initially offered shifting accounts about Khashoggi‘s disappearance. As international pressure mounted, the kingdom eventually settled on the explanation that he was killed by rogue officials in a brawl.

Picture: AP Photo/Hasan Jamali/File

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