ISTANBUL – Journalists and human rights activists called for justice for Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Friday, the second anniversary of The Washington Post columnist's brutal killing inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul.
Dozens of activists gathered at a memorial erected in Khashoggi's honor near the Saudi Consulate building in the Turkish city. The activists denounced the journalist's slaying, which cast a shadow over the reputation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and criminal proceedings in Saudi Arabia as inadequate.
“Justice has still not materialized,” journalist Turan Kislak, who was a friend of Khashoggi’s, said. “A theatrical court has been in session for two years. However, no details on this subject has been given to the world.”
Last month, a court in Saudi Arabia issued final verdicts convicting eight unnamed Saudi nationals in Khashoggi's 2018 killing. The verdicts by the Riyadh Criminal Court came after Khashoggi’s son, who still resides in the kingdom, announced pardons that spared five of the convicted individuals from execution.
The trial has been widely criticized by rights groups and observers, who said it was conducted behind closed doors and lacked transparency.
“What happened to Jamal Khassogi’s body? If a court has been in session for two years, we want an explanation,” Kislak said.
Turkey, which had insisted that the suspects be extradited and put on trial in the country, is now trying two of the Saudi crown prince's former aides other Saudi nationals in absentia. Last month, it also indicted six other Saudi nationals, including two former consulate employees.
A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the consulate for his appointment on Oct. 2, 2018 to pick up documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancee, who waited outside. The team included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers, and individuals who worked directly for the crown prince’s office, according to Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the United Nations.
Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate. His body has not been found.
Prior to his killing, Khashoggi had written critically of Prince Mohammed in columns for The Washington Post at a time when the young heir to the throne was being widely hailed by Washington for pushing through social reforms.
The Vienna-based International Press Institute, a press freedom advocacy group, decried the lack of justice for Khashoggi in a statement issued earlier this week.
“Two years have passed since Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, yet Saudi Arabia has failed to name or hold responsible the mastermind behind the killing,” IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said. “The fact that Saudi Arabia has managed to avoid any real consequences for this abominable act exposes the hypocrisy of human rights discourse by governments that continue to roll out the red carpet for the Kingdom.”
“The recent verdicts in the Saudi trial are a mockery of justice that the international community should not accept,” she said.
Meanwhile, Khashoggi's family and friends this week launched the work of Democracy for the Arab World Now, a nonprofit organization that Khashoggi founded not long before he was killed. They accused the United States of “shielding the top Saudi officials responsible for his death.”
“Rather than cozy up to the Saudi officials who ordered Khashoggi’s gruesome murder, the Trump administration should provide the transparency that Congress has demanded regarding our government’s knowledge about Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman’s role in this crime,” DAWN’s executive director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said.
Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey and Robert Badenbieck in Istanbul contributed.