07/04/2020, 11.36
TURKEY - SAUDI ARABIA
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Istanbul, 20 Saudis on trial for Jamal Khashoggi murder

Judged in absentia after Riyadh's refusal to extradite them, they include two close collaborators of the Saudi crown prince, who denies all involvement in the journalist’s murder. Turkish investigators: Eliminated for criticizing the al-Saud regime. United Nations labels Saudi process a sham trial.

Istanbul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The trial for the brutal assassination of the Saudi journalist and activist Jamal Khashoggi opened yesterday. Twenty Saudi citizens are charged but are all being tried in absentia after Riyadh refused to extradite them to Turkey. They include two close associates of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (also known as MBS), who denies all involvement.

On October 2, 2018, a Saudi death squad murdered Khashoggi inside the Riyadh consulate in Istanbul; his body was cut up into pieces, and the remains never found. The consular authorities had lured him to the building with the excuse of his having to fill out forms for his marriage to Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish citizen.

Investigators, like most observers, claim that the Washington Post columnist was eliminated for his repeated criticisms of the al-Saud regime, particularly MBS, believed to be the country's true leader. Ahmed al-Assiri, a former deputy head of Saudi intelligence, is considered the material organizer of the assassination.

A former Turkish consulate employee told the judges that on the day of Khashoggi's disappearance, he had been summoned to the consul's residence to turn on the barbecue oven. Returning to the building a few days later, Zekir Demir had found the marble around the grill had been cleaned with bleach.

Riyadh has always denied all knowledge of the murder. Last year, the Saudi authorities sentenced eight people - never identified - for the incident; five of them were executed, the other three are in prison. The United Nations called it a sham trial. According to Agnes Callamard, UN rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, Khashoggi was the victim of a deliberate and premeditated execution for which the Saudi government is responsible.

The next hearing in the Turkish trial will take place on 24 November. Given the lack of collaboration of the Saudis, for analysts this is a more political than judicial operation, to be included in the framework of the regional competition between Ankara and Riyadh.

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