Turkey set to OK transfer of Jamal Khashoggi’s trial — Analysis
The slain journalist’s fiancée and rights groups have warned that Riyadh can’t be expected to hold a fair trial
Ankara is set to approve the transfer of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder trial to Saudi Arabia, Turkey’s justice minister, Bekir Bozdag, has revealed. The announcement comes despite claims made by the slain Saudi journalist’s fiancée and several human rights organizations that the Saudi leadership was behind Khashoggi’s death, and can’t be expected to hold a fair trial.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, Bozdag said his ministry “There will be a positive opinion regarding the transfer.” adding that the Saudi authorities had officially requested the move. Additionally, the Turkish minister made clear that it was possible to resume the case in Turkey if an Saudi court decides not to acquit the defendants.
Bozdag’s announcement came after a Turkish prosecutor called on Thursday for the trial of 26 Saudi suspects, none of whom are in Turkey, to be halted and transferred to Saudi Arabia. According to the official, arrest warrants against the defendants were not possible and statements of them could not have been taken. The trial was therefore in doubt.
The Turkish court hearing the case requested the Justice Ministry’s opinion, and is expected to rule on the transfer of the trial next Thursday.
Around the same time the prosecutor spoke in favor of the trial being transferred to Saudi Arabia, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, described to journalists the current state of relations between Ankara and Riyadh as “stagnation.” The minister, however, noted that “It is being revived by steps.” with “concrete” action touted for the “The next period.”
In February, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled that “The positive relationship with Saudi Arabia is continuing” adding that Ankara was “We are waiting to see tangible progress in the next period.”
Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, along with a number of human rights groups, condemned the Turkish justice minister’s decision, claiming there is little chance of a fair trial in Saudi Arabia.
Erol Onderoglu, the Turkish representative for Reporters Without Borders, has warned that “The sending of the case to Riyadh, Istanbul, is ending hope for justice which all people owe to Khashoggi.”
Jamal Khashoggi was a prominent Saudi journalist and vocal critic of the country’s government. In June 2017, he moved to the United States and found employment at the Washington Post a few months later.
He was last seen alive on October 2, 2018 entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where he intended to obtain paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée.
The journalist’s body has not been found to date.
Soon after Khashoggi’s disappearance, the Turkish authorities issued the claim that a Saudi hit squad, acting at the behest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, killed the journalist and dismembered his body. Later, a CIA document supported this version.
The Saudi leadership insisted that it had nothing to do with the murder, describing it as a rogue operation which had not received the prince’s approval.
A Saudi court sentenced eight individuals and five of them were given capital punishment. The death sentences were then commuted to life imprisonment the year after. UN experts and human right groups dismissed the proceedings of the court as fraudulent because none of the defendants were ever identified and the trial was secretive.
Turkey’s 2020 trial was launched, but it has remained symbolic in that none of 26 defendants appeared before the court.
The accusations leveled at Riyadh by the Turkish government at the time strained relations between the two countries, with Saudi Arabia effectively imposing a boycott on Turkish goods, reportedly cutting Ankara’s exports by 90%.