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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The son of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Monday welcomed the speedy resolution to the trial as a court in Riyadh sentenced five men to death for the killing in the Saudi consulate last September.
"Today we have been granted justice as the children of the deceased…, Jamal Khashoggi,” tweeted Salah Khashoggi. We affirm our confidence in the Saudi judiciary at all levels, that it has been fair to us and that justice has been achieved.”
He welcomed the speedy conclusion of the case.
“The legitimacy of the judiciary is based on two factors – fairness and the speed of the litigation process to ensure that injustice and delaying tactics were avoided,” he added.
Salah’s brother, Abdullah Khashoggi, retweeted the comments.
His statement came hours after the Riyadh court sentenced five men to death for the murder, three to 24 years in prison for covering up the crime and “violating the law”, a statement from the kingdom’s public prosecutor read.
Read more: Timeline: the murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Fifteen months ago, Khashoggi was murdered at Riyadh’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul in a case that gripped the world.
While at first Khashoggi appeared to be missing, it later transpired he never left the diplomatic outpost. Saudi officials vowed a full investigation into the killing and later filed charges against 11 men.
The accused, officials said, ran a “rogue operation” but the court said on Monday that there was no premeditated plan to kill the former unofficial spokesman of the government turned critic.
In a press conference on Monday, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Public Prosecutor Shalaan bin Rajih Shalaan said that the court had dropped charges against two prominent Saudi officials – former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Al Assiri and former advisor to the crown prince Saud Al Qahtani – and the pair were released.
They were both fired from their posts in the wake of the incident.
Last November the Saudi prosecutor said Mr Al Qahtani had discussed Khashoggi's activities before he entered the Saudi consulate with the team which went on to kill him.
The prosecutor had said Mr Al Qahtani acted in coordination with Mr Al Asiri, who he said had ordered Khashoggi's repatriation from Turkey and that the lead negotiator on the ground then decided to kill him.
Mr Al Shalaan said on Monday that Mr Asiri has been tried and released due to insufficient evidence while Mr Qahtani had been investigated but was not charged and had also been released.
“Investigations into three individuals showed there was no prior intention to kill Mr Khashoggi,” the statement from the state prosecutor said.
During the press conference, Mr Shalaan clarified that “the decision was taken at the spur of the moment.” He identified referred to in the statement as Mr Al Assiri, Mr Al Qahtani.
The verdict is an important step in holding those responsible for this terrible crime accountable
Senior US official told The National
He also said that statements by Turkish witnesses showed that former Saudi consulate general Mohammed Al Otaibi was not in the building at the time. Mr Al Shalaan said the former diplomat had no knowledge of the killing and was also released without charge.
On Monday, the deputy prosecutor said that the Saudi team that entered the consulate saw that it would not be possible to transfer Khashoggi to a safe place to continue negotiating and decided to kill him.
"It was agreed, in consultation between the head of the negotiating team and the culprits, to kill Jamal Khashoggi inside the consulate," the deputy prosecutor said in response to questions from journalists.
Saudi officials have repeatedly said that the killing took place without the knowledge of the country’s leaders, although Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said he was responsible as “it happened under my watch".
The killing spurred a reform of the kingdom’s intelligence agencies and the creation of three new oversight bodies to ensure all operations are conducted in line with the national security policy, international human rights law and "approved procedures".
The trial opened in January this year. By October, Saudi courts had heard eight sessions related to the killing, with several sessions attended by representatives of members of the UN Security Council and Turkish and Saudi Arabian human rights organisations. Representatives of Khashoggi’s family and from Turkey also attended.
A senior US official told The National that the trial and the verdict on Monday "is an important step in holding those responsible for this terrible crime accountable, and we encourage Saudi Arabia to continue with a fair and transparent judicial process."
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab reacted to the verdict on Monday afternoon, calling the murder a "terrible crime".
“Mr Khashoggi’s family deserve to see justice done for his brutal murder," Mr Raab said.
"Saudi Arabia must ensure all of those responsible are held to account and that such an atrocity can never happen again.”
The UK's foreign office said it condemns the use of the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle.
The statement from the Saudi Arabian public prosecutor said the sentences are still subject to the right of appeal. “The public prosecution will study the verdict and look into objections to it in front of the appeals court,” the statement said.
It is not yet clear if any of the men have lodged an appeal.
According to Saudi criminal law, sentences can either be appealed by the convicted persons or the prosecutor. The Appellate Court, consisting of five judges, is authorised to review sentences of death, stoning, amputation and other punishment.
Even if affirmed by the Appellate Court, sentences may not be final unless approved by a body called the Permanent Panel of the Supreme Judicial Council. According to the law, if the Supreme Judicial Council does not affirm the sentence, it “shall be reversed and the case shall be remanded for reconsideration by other judges.”
Updated: December 23, 2019 09:20 PM
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