– Saudi justice is facing international human rights criticism for avoiding denouncing the top officials responsible for the assassination of Khashoggi and the officials who ordered his assassination
Widespread criticism of campaigns of harassment and arrests of thought leaders, advocates, reformers, journalists and jurists, and those calling for change and participation in government
Saudi Arabia ranks 172nd out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index issued by Reporters Without Borders in 2019
– After the phone of the owner of the “Washington Post” newspaper, in which Khashoggi was writing, was hacked, Western reports speak of the Crown Prince’s interest in establishing institutions interested in purchasing or developing spyware on journalists, media professionals and opponentsMany Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA, have reported that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (35 years), bears full responsibility for the assassination of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
But the US President, Donald Trump, did not take this seriously, due to considerations related to his relationship with the Crown Prince and his need to revive the US economy with Saudi investments and deals.
Khashoggi was assassinated in his country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018, after entering the consulate building to conduct personal transactions.
In trials that international organizations described as “ridiculous justice,” Saudi Arabia tried 11 people last December, and sentenced five of them to death, and three others to several years in prison, while it acquitted three others.
The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, rejected the court’s decisions as “the opposite of justice,” as Khashoggi was a “victim of premeditated execution,” and the Saudi state was responsible for it.
However, the Saudi court considered that the killing was not premeditated, while Salah Khashoggi, the son of the murdered journalist, called for an announcement, in the name of his family, to pardon her personal right, so that the court would return and issue new rulings, on September 7, that reduced Death sentences for five defendants to 20 years in prison, with three others imprisoned between 7 and 10 years.
No charges were brought against Saud Al-Qahtani, an advisor in the royal court, and the deputy head of Saudi intelligence, Ahmed Al-Asiri, who are close to the crown prince, and are believed to be directly involved in Khashoggi’s assassination, have been acquitted.
The International Federation of Journalists condemned these rulings, considering them to abort international efforts to end impunity for crimes and violations against journalists.
Saudi justice is facing criticism from international organizations and human rights associations around the world, for avoiding condemning the top officials responsible for Khashoggi’s assassination and the officials who issued the order to assassinate him.
Freedom of opinion and expression and civil rights in the Kingdom are also facing wider criticism, due to campaigns of harassment and arrests of thought leaders, advocates, reformers, journalists, human rights workers, and those calling for change and participation in government.
Reporters Without Borders reports that about 30 journalists and bloggers, classified as prisoners of conscience, are being held in Saudi prisons. Last March, the release of 250 foreign detainees on charges related to violations of residency laws.
However, this decision and others did not include journalists and prisoners of conscience, who are at risk of infection with “Corona”, according to reports that spoke of overcrowding in Saudi prisons and the impossibility of social distancing, in addition to the fact that many of them are in poor health, as a result of torture and ill-treatment and their need for urgent medical care.
On July 19, the Saudi journalist, Saleh al-Shehhi, died of illness, two months after his release from a Saudi prison where he had spent more than two years, after he was sentenced, in February 2018, to five years in prison.
It is believed that Al-Shehhi was infected with Corona, but the Saudi authorities did not officially announce the disease, and his family did not talk about the circumstances of his death or the disease that caused the death.
Al-Shehhi is a well-known writer for the Saudi newspaper, Al-Watan, and was arrested in December 2017, after he called for discussions about the reforms being carried out by the Crown Prince, and spoke on a Saudi TV channel about corruption within the royal court.
The sudden release of him, before completing his sentence, and then his death two months later, raised many doubts about the reasons that led to his release alone.
Saudi Arabia ranks 172nd out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index issued by Reporters Without Borders in 2019.
Observers say that there was a margin of freedom of expression and criticism of some state policies, during the reign of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (2005: 2015), but this margin has not existed since Muhammad bin Salman was singled out by the decision, after his appointment as crown prince, on 21 June 2017.
No one would dare to direct any criticism of the crown prince’s policies, whether the Saudi role in the Yemen war, the call for reconciliation with the State of Qatar, or the criticism of the normalization of the UAE and Bahrain with Israel, which the vast majority of the Saudi people are believed to reject, but without the statement. Thus, as long as these normalization steps obtain the approval of the crown prince, contrary to the policies of his 85-year-old father, King Salman.
Bodies and institutions associated with the Saudi crown prince employed more capabilities for organized cells active in the media and on social media sites, to praise the policies of the Crown Prince and suppress his critics and report them to the responsible authorities.
After the phone of Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, in which Khashoggi was writing, was hacked, Western reports speak of a special interest for the crown prince to establish institutions interested in buying or developing spyware to monitor journalists, media professionals and opponents of his policies inside and outside the Kingdom.
All media in Saudi Arabia are subject to government censorship. Laws impose restrictions on freedom of the press and the expression of opinion, whereby the media and newspapers are required to obtain a license to practice work, within the scope of adherence to the media policy determined by the Ministry of Culture and Information.
On November 4, 2017, the Saudi Crown Prince inaugurated a widespread campaign of arrests of a number of princes, ministers, senior media figures and state officials, on charges related to combating financial and administrative corruption.
Mohammed bin Salman tightened his authoritarian grip on all security and political decision-making centers, which created an atmosphere of fear among his opponents, including the princes in the ruling family, a number of whom were subjected to harassment, arrest, forced residency, and the seizure of part of their wealth.
The international community, and the United States in particular, is still distancing itself from exerting enough pressure on the crown prince, to ease his security grip and release political opponents, opinion leaders and civil society activists, because most of the active states are linked to economic interests with the Saudi state.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, who investigated the assassination of Khashoggi, calls on the governments of the G20 countries to boycott the “hypothetically” scheduled summit in Saudi Arabia, on November 21-22, headed by Mohammed bin Salman, against the background of violations against human rights. However, expectations indicate that the concerned countries respond to participating in the summit.
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