Absent suspects in Khashoggi trial will not face justice - VICE

Turkey’s trial against 20 Saudi officials accused of murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi are unlikely to face justice, VICE News said on Tuesday.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a leading critic of the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The whereabouts of Khashoggi's body remains unknown.

In March, Istanbul prosecutors indicted 20 Saudi officials – including the former deputy chief of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service, Ahmed al-Asiri, and ex-royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani – for committing premeditated murder with “monstrous intent”.

Bin Salman denied ordering Khashoggi’s death and initially said the murder was carried out by a “rogue operation”, however the CIA experts believe the crown price gave the green light for the incident.

However, the suspects are being tried in absentia by a Turkish court, which opened the murder trial on Friday, because Riyadh has refused to extradite the men despite repeated requests by Turkey.

Ersin Kalaycıoğlu, professor of political sciences at Turkey’s Sabanci University, told VICE News that the trial was attracting more international interest, rather than domestic.

"The judges are considered to be under the complete control of the executive branch of government, so most people do not believe anything the courts decide," he said.

"It’s going to be perceived domestically through a partisan divide, therefore the impact of this court case domestically would be less than you might think."

A Saudi court in December sentenced five people to death over the incident, however Asiri and Qahtani were dismissed from all charges due to lack of evidence, in a trial shrouded in secrecy that was widely denounced as a sham aimed at clearing bin Salman from international condemnation.

Human rights group Amnesty International had said the verdict was a “whitewash” that failed to address the Saudi authorities’ involvement or the location of Khashoggi’s remains. Ankara had said that the trial had fallen far short of "justice being served and accountability".