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Turkey charges 20 Saudis over 2018 Khashoggi murder

In this file photo taken on December 23, 2018 people cross the street near a protest sign reading, "Khashoggi way", in Washington, DC. (By AFP)

Turkish prosecutors have charged 20 Saudi nationals, including two former senior aides to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, over the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The Istanbul prosecutor's office said in a statement on Wednesday that the former aides, Saud al-Qahtani and Ahmed al-Assiri, were charged with “instigating the deliberate and monstrous killing, causing torment.”

The indictment also charged 18 other Saudis, including intelligence operative Maher Mutreb – a companion of bin Salman, forensics expert Salah al-Tubaigy and Fahad al-Balawi, a member of the Saudi royal guard. They face life imprisonment if convicted.

Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, after he entered the premises to collect documents for his planned wedding to his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz.

According to Turkish officials, Khashoggi was killed and his body was cut into pieces by a 15-man Saudi squad inside the consulate.

The Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a columnist, reported in November 2018 that the CIA had concluded that bin Salman personally ordered the murder.

Ankara has called Khashoggi’s killing “premeditated murder,” and has pressed the kingdom for information on his dismembered body’s whereabouts.

Riyadh initially claimed Khashoggi had left the consulate on October 2. It rejects allegations linking the killing to the crown prince, claiming instead that the murder had been carried out by a “rogue” group.

The Istanbul prosecutor’s office said the 20 suspects, who are not in Turkey, would be tried in absentia. It did not give a date for the trial.

Mutreb, Tubaigy and Balawi were among 11 people whom Riyadh had already put on trial.

In December 2019, the Saudi public prosecutor said of the 11 individuals held over Khashoggi’s death, five were sentenced to death, three more were sentenced to jail terms totaling 24 years and the remaining three, including Qahtani and Assiri, were exonerated. The acquittal met with global condemnation, with many describing it as a travesty of justice.

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