The Istanbul prosecutors’ office yesterday said that it has charged 20 suspects, including two former aides to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Prosecutors accuse the royal court’s media adviser Saud al-Qahtani and former deputy head of Saudi Arabia’s general intelligence Major General Ahmed al-Assiri of leading the operation and giving orders to a Saudi Arabian hit team.
Khashoggi, 59, a US resident who wrote for the Washington Post and others, was killed after he entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, to obtain paperwork for his wedding to Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz.
Turkey carried out its own investigation into the murder after being unhappy with Saudi Arabian explanations.
The Istanbul prosecutor’s office said in a statement that al-Assiri and al-Qahtani were charged with “instigating the deliberate and monstrous killing, causing torment.”
Eighteen other suspects — including intelligence operative Maher Mutreb, who frequently traveled with the crown prince on foreign tour; forensic expert Salah al-Tubaigy; and Fahad al-Balawi, a member of the Saudi royal guard, were also charged with “deliberately and monstrously killing, causing torment.”
They face life in jail if convicted.
The indictment was based on analysis of cellphone records of the suspects, records of their entry and exit into Turkey and presence at the consulate, witness statements and analysis of Khashoggi’s phone, laptop and iPad, the statement said.
Mutreb, al-Tubaigy and al-Balawi had been among 11 on trial in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, during which sources said many of those accused defended themselves by saying they were carrying out al-Assiri’s orders, describing him as the operation’s “ringleader.”
The prosecutors’ office said a trial in absentia would be opened against the 20 suspects, but did not give a date. It had already issued arrest warrants for the suspects, who are not in Turkey.
Khashoggi was strangled and his body cut into pieces by a 15-man Saudi Arabian squad inside the consulate, Turkish officials have said.
His remains have never been found.
The CIA, UN special envoy Agnes Callamard and Turkey have directly linked Crown Prince Mohammed to the killing, a charge the kingdom vehemently denies.
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