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DUBAI, Dec 23 — Turkey and international rights groups today led condemnation of a Saudi court’s verdict over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying it failed to deliver justice.
Five people were sentenced to death over the brutal killing, by a 15-man Saudi hit squad inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, but two top aides to powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were exonerated.
The Saudi prosecutor’s office said a total of 31 people were investigated in connection with the killing, and that 11 people were charged. Three were handed jail terms totalling 24 years and the rest were acquitted.
Here are the reactions to the Saudi verdict which came after a closed-door trial.
Turkey, where the crime took place in October last year, said the verdict failed to deliver justice or shed light on the killing.
The decision “is far from meeting the expectations of both our country and the international community to shed light on the murder with all its dimensions and deliver justice,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Ankara said there was no clarity on key aspects of the murder including the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body, labelling it a “fundamental deficiency” in terms of accountability.
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on summary executions who has previously directly linked Prince Mohammed to the killing, said the sentence “is anything but justice”.
“Under international human rights law, the killing of Khashoggi was an extrajudicial execution for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial. That is the antithesis of Justice. It is a mockery,” said Callamard, who does not speak for the UN but reports her findings to it.
Reporters Without Borders
Paris-based media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders said that justice was “trampled on” with the death sentences meted out after a trial that did not respect international standards of justice.
The group’s secretary general Christophe Deloire tweeted that the sentences “can be interpreted as a means to permanently silence the suspects, a way to prevent them from speaking to better cover up the truth”.
“The opacity of the procedure and the concealment of evidence does not allow us to get an idea” of why several others were convicted or acquitted, said Deloire, adding: “We still expect a full accounting.”
Amnesty International criticised the verdict as a “whitewash which brings neither justice nor the truth for Jamal Khashoggi and his loved ones”.
“Given the lack of transparency from the Saudi authorities, and in the absence of an independent judiciary, only an international, independent and impartial investigation can serve justice for Jamal Khashoggi,” said Middle East research director Lynn Maalouf.
“The verdict fails to address the Saudi authorities’ involvement in this devastating crime or clarify the location of Jamal Khashoggi’s remains,” she said in a statement. — AFP
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