Saudi Arabia Criticised over Jamal Khashoggi Killing Verdict

Saudi Arabia Criticised over Jamal Khashoggi Killing Verdict 

A Saudi Arabian court has reversed the death sentences of five people involved in the killing of the Washington Post’s journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered and dismembered by a Saudi hit squad.

Saudi’s state media, on Monday, reported that five people were awarded 20-year sentences and three others were sentenced to between seven to 10 years in prison. Khashoggi went missing on October 2, 2018, while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. It was later revealed that the journalist was killed inside the consulate by a Saudi assassination team, who dismembered his body and took the body parts in a van. His body or any of the body parts were never found.

Eight people have been convicted in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. However, none of the culprits have been identified publicly. The revised verdict came months after Khashoggi’s sons said in May they had “pardoned” the killers. The verdict has been condemned as a “parody of justice” by a United Nations’ expert.

UN spokesman Rupert Colville, on Tuesday, said while the global body opposes death penalty, said Jamal Khashoggi’s trial lacked transparency and fell short on assigning accountability for the crime.

“This is case where there has not been proper transparency in the justice process, those responsible should be prosecuted and given sentences commensurate with the crime. There is a whole issue of transparency and accountability in the case,” he said in Geneva.

The trial, when began, was severely criticised by various human rights groups as no senior official nor any other suspect who may have ordered the killing was found guilty. The rights groups also raised questions on the independence of the court.

Jamal Khashoggi, 59, was a critic of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). He left Saudi Arabia when MbS began to unleash a crackdown on Saudi human rights activists, writers and critics of the kingdom’s devastating war in Yemen. Khashoggi was living in exile in the United States.

Several intelligence agencies have found proof over MbS’ involvement in the ordering of Khashoggi’s killing. While MbS has denied involvement in the murder, he did acknowledge that “it happened under my watch”.

Following the murder, the Saudi government denied involvement for weeks and later called it a “rogue operation”.

Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said on Monday that the trial was not fair or transparent and “the responsibility of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has not even been addressed”.

Hatice Cengiz, Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancé also condemned the verdict on Twitter. “The ruling handed down today in Saudi Arabia again makes a complete mockery of justice,” she tweeted.

“The Saudi authorities are closing the case without the world knowing the truth of who is responsible for Jamal’s murder. Who planned it, who ordered it, where is the body? These are the most important questions that remain totally unanswered.”

Rami Khouri, from the American University of Beirut, said, “the issue of who actually ordered it [the murder] is still a big question. The crown prince has been implicated – that’s a very serious accusation when it comes from the investigator at the United Nations and the CIA. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

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