Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said on Monday five people had been sentenced to death over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October last year, but two top figures investigated over the killing have been exonerated.
Saudi prosecutors had said deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri oversaw the Washington Post columnist’s killing in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in October 2018 and that he was advised by the royal court’s media czar Saud al-Qahtani.
Exoneration For High-ranking Officials:
However, al-Qahtani was investigated but not indicted “due to insufficient evidence” and al-Assiri was investigated and charged but eventually acquitted on the same grounds, the statement said.
The court also ruled that the Saudi consul-general in Istanbul at the time, Mohammed al-Otaibi, was not guilty. He was released from prison after the verdicts were announced, according to state TV.
After holding nine sessions, the trial concluded that there was no previous intent by those found guilty to murder, according to state TV.
Of the 11 unnamed individuals indicted in the case, five were sentenced to death, while three face jail terms totalling 24 years, and the others were acquitted. All can appeal the verdicts.
Release of 10 Accused:
The Public Prosecution did not file charges against ten other individuals and released them due to insufficient evidence.
The Public Prosecution said it will review the court verdicts and decide whether it will file an appeal at the Appellate Court.
There was no comment from Khashoggi‘s family on the verdicts.
UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard concluded in an earlier report that Khashoggi‘s murder was a “deliberate, premeditated execution” and encouraged Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman be investigated.
Saudi officials, however, have insisted that the Saudi prince was not involved in the murder.
The killing of the US resident and Saudi writer last year shocked the world.
Crown Prince’s Order:
Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), was living in self-exile in the United States where had been granted political asylum.
Khashoggi, a Saudi national and US resident, disappeared in October 2018 after visiting the Istanbul consulate to request paperwork for his marriage.
Saudi authorities initially said he left the building following his appointment but later admitted he had been killed.
The CIA concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the journalist’s assassination, but Saudi Arabia has always denied his knowledge or involvement in the crime.