Turkey court confirms transfer of Khashoggi murder trial to Saudis


A Turkish court on Thursday confirmed the suspension of the absentee trial of 26 suspects linked to the killing of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi and their transfer to Riyadh, a decision that has angered rights groups.

The 59-year-old journalist was murdered inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 in a gruesome murder that shocked the world.

A Turkish court launched the trial in 2020 with relations strained between the two regional Sunni Muslim powers.

But with Turkey desperate for investment to help it out of the economic crisis, Ankara has tried to bridge the gap with Riyadh.

The judge told the court: “We decided to stop and hand over the case to Saudi Arabia.”

The court decision comes nearly a week after Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said he would give the green light to a Turkish prosecutor’s request to hand over the case to Saudi Arabia, at the request of the latter.

The prosecutor said the case was “dragging” because the court’s orders could not be carried out as the defendants were foreigners.

‘Commit the lamb to the wolf’
Defense attorney Ali Ceylan told the court on Thursday that there will not be a fair trial in Saudi Arabia.

“Let us not entrust the lamb to the wolf,” he said, using a Turkish saying.

Another defense lawyer, Gokmen Baspinar, denounced the Justice Ministry’s move as “against the law”.

“There is no ongoing process in Saudi Arabia at the moment,” he said.

“Saudi authorities concluded the trial and acquitted many suspects.”

He said the decision to hand over the case to Riyadh would amount to a “violation of Turkish sovereignty” and “an example of irresponsibility against the Turkish people.”

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The decision has deeply upset human rights groups.

The Istanbul court “agreed to transfer the case to the Saudi authorities, in a sentence, just like that. He didn’t even bother to state that the lawyers’ requests were rejected,” said Milena Buyum of Amnesty International.

She tweeted: “Appalling and clearly political decision.”

The kingdom sentenced five people to death for Khashoggi’s murder, but a Saudi court overturned them in September 2020 and handed jail terms of up to 20 years to eight unnamed defendants following secret legal proceedings.

– Boycott –
To Riyadh’s dismay, Turkey went ahead with the Khashoggi case, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying at the time that the order to kill him came from the “highest levels” of government.

In the years that followed, Saudi Arabia unofficially tried to put pressure on Turkey’s economy, with a boycott of Turkish imports.

Last year, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Riyadh to mend relations with the kingdom.

The transfer of the case to Riyadh removes the last obstacle to normalizing ties.

But Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz, who attended Thursday’s hearing, urged Ankara to insist on justice despite rapprochement with Saudi Arabia in an interview with AFP in February.

“In order for something like this not to happen again… (Turkey) should not drop this case,” Cengiz said.

She was left waiting outside the consulate for Khashoggi when he was killed. He had gone there to get her paperwork to marry her. Her remains have never been found.

Erdogan has sought to improve ties with regional rivals, including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, in the face of growing diplomatic isolation that has led to a drying up of foreign investment, particularly from the West.

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In January, he said he was planning a trip to Saudi Arabia as the economy was going through a tumultuous period.

Turkey’s annual inflation has soared to 61.1 percent, according to official data on Monday.

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Turkey court confirms transfer of Khashoggi murder trial to Saudis

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