'Political decision' - critics slam Turkey transfer of Khashoggi murder trial to Saudi Arabia

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • Turkey transferred the Jamal Khashoggi case to Saudi Arabia.
  • Khashoggi was murdered in 2018.
  • Rights groups criticised the transfer of the case.


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

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

READ | Jamal Khashoggi killing: US says Saudi prince approved murder of journalist, but spares sanctions

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

But with Turkey desperate for investment to help pull it out of economic crisis, Ankara has sought to heal the rift with Riyadh.

The judge told the court: "We decided to halt and hand over the case to Saudi Arabia."

The court decision comes almost a week after Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that he would approve a Turkish prosecutor's request to hand the case over to Saudi Arabia, at the latter's demand.

Fair trail

The prosecutor said the case was "dragging" because, as the defendants were foreigners, the court's orders could not be carried out.

Defence lawyer Ali Ceylan told the court on Thursday that there would not be a fair trial in Saudi Arabia.

Using a Turkish saying, he said:

Let's not entrust the lamb to the wolf.

Another defence lawyer, Gokmen Baspinar, said that the justice ministry's move was "against the law".

"There is no prosecution going on in Saudi Arabia at the moment," he said. 

He added:

Saudi authorities have concluded the trial and acquitted many suspects.

He said the decision to hand over the case to Riyadh would be tantamount to a "breach of Turkish sovereignty" and "an example of irresponsibility against Turkish people".

The decision has deeply angered rights groups.


The Istanbul tribunal "agreed to transfer the case to the Saudi authorities - in one sentence, just like that. Didn't even bother to state the lawyers' requests are rejected," Milena Buyum, of Amnesty International, said.

She tweeted: "Appalling and clearly political decision."

Appeal

Five people were sentenced to death by the kingdom over Khashoggi's killing, but a Saudi court in September 2020 overturned the sentences, handing jail terms of up to 20 years to eight unnamed defendants following secretive legal proceedings.


Khashoggi's fiancée Hatice Cengiz, who was present at the hearing on Thursday, said that she would appeal the decision.

Turkey "is not ruled by a family like in Saudi Arabia. We have a justice system that addresses citizens' grievances," she told journalists outside Istanbul's main court.

She said:

We will appeal the decision in line with our legal system.

Speaking to AFP, she vowed to "continue to fight. Whoever gives up has given up. I will continue. Sometimes the legal battle itself is more important than the results."

To Riyadh's dismay, Turkey pressed ahead with the Khashoggi case and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had, at the time, said the order to kill him came from the "highest levels" of government.

Subsequently, Saudi Arabia sought unofficially to put pressure on Turkey's economy, with a boycott on Turkish imports.

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

Transferring the case to Riyadh removes the last obstacle to a normalisation of ties.

In an interview with AFP in February, Cengiz urged Ankara to insist on justice despite the rapprochement with Saudi Arabia.

She said:

In order for such a thing to not happen again... (Turkey) should not abandon this case.

Cengiz had been waiting outside the consulate for Khashoggi when he was murdered. He had gone there to obtain paperwork to marry her. His 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 increasing diplomatic isolation that has caused foreign investment to dry up - particularly from the West.

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

Turkey's annual inflation has soared to 61.1%, according to official data on Monday.



We want to hear your views on the news. Subscribe to News24 to be part of the conversation in the comments section of this article.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Authorities should bring in the army already
11% - 1905 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
49% - 8743 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
37% - 6495 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
4% - 638 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.43
+0.1%
Rand - Pound
19.79
+0.2%
Rand - Euro
16.70
+0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.54
+0.2%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.1%
Gold
1,781.60
+0.1%
Silver
20.23
-0.2%
Palladium
2,150.14
-0.1%
Platinum
935.50
-0.3%
Brent Crude
95.10
-3.2%
Top 40
64,022
0.0%
All Share
70,741
0.0%
Resource 10
63,315
0.0%
Industrial 25
86,967
0.0%
Financial 15
16,154
0.0%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE