RIYADH (CBS/AP) — A court in Saudi Arabia on Monday sentenced five people to death for the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year by a team of Saudi agents.
Saudi Arabia’s state-run Al-Ekhbariya TV channel reported that three others were sentenced to prison. All can appeal the verdicts.
The Saudi crown prince drew international condemnation for the killing because several Saudi agents involved worked directly for him. The kingdom denies that Prince Mohammed bin Salman had any involvement in or knowledge of the operation. He is the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
Khashoggi was a U.S. resident and harsh critic of bin Salman.
State TV also reported the Saudi attorney general’s investigation showed that the crown prince’s former top adviser, Saud al-Qahtani, had no proven involvement in the killing. Al-Qahtani, however, has been sanctioned by the United States for his alleged role in the operation.
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 there was no previous intent by those found guilty to murder, according to state TV.
The trials of the accused were carried out in near total secrecy, though a handful of diplomats, including from Turkey, as well as members of Khashoggi’s family were allowed to attend the sessions.
The killing shocked the world and drew condemnation from the international community, including the United Nations.
Khashoggi had walked into his country’s consulate in Istanbul one morning in October 2018 to collect documents that would allow him to wed his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who waited for him outside. He never walked out. His body was reportedly dismembered and taken from the building. His remains haven’t been found.
Agnes Callamard, a U.N. special rapporteur who authored an inquiry into Khashoggi’s killing, later said the search for justice must not be left to the Saudi judicial system, which is “so vulnerable to political interference.”
President Trump condemned the killing, and his administration sanctioned 17 Saudis suspected of being involved, though not the crown prince. Mr. Trump, however, has steadfastly resisted calls by members of his own party for a tougher response and has defended maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia, framing its importance as a major buyer of U.S. military equipment and weapons and saying that creates American jobs.
Meanwhile, numerous critics of the Saudi crown prince remained imprisoned and face trial for their acts of dissent.
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