The Saudi Arabian trial into the killing of critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi has lacked transparency and fallen short on assigning accountability for the crime, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) said yesterday, echoing earlier criticism from the murdered man’s fiancee, Turkey and others.
The Riyadh Criminal Court on Monday jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years for the October 2018 murder of Khashoggi, state media reported, four months after his family forgave his killers and enabled death sentences to be set aside.
UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville, noting that the UN opposes the death penalty, told a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland: “This is case where there has not been proper transparency in the justice process, those responsible should be prosecuted and given sentences commensurate with the crime.”
“There is a whole issue of transparency and accountability in the case,” he said.
The ruling had been condemned on Monday by Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, as a farce, and slammed by UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard as a “parody of justice.”
The closed-door trial of 11 suspects ended in December last year with five unnamed people sentenced to death and three others handed jail terms totaling 24 years over the killing.
However, the family’s pardon paved the way for Monday’s reduced sentences, including clemency for the five people on death row.
“Five convicts were sentenced to 20 years in prison ... one person was sentenced to 10 years and two others to seven years,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a spokesman for the public prosecutor.
None of the defendants were named in what was described as the final court ruling on the murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, which triggered an international outcry and tarnished the global reputation of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“The ruling handed down today in Saudi Arabia again makes a complete mockery of justice,” Cengiz said on Twitter.
Callamard also took to Twitter to condemn the ruling.
“These verdicts carry no legal or moral legitimacy,” Callamard wrote. “They came at the end of a process which was neither fair, nor just, or transparent.”
The 59-year-old Khashoggi was strangled and his body cut into pieces by a 15-man Saudi Arabian squad inside the consulate, according to Turkish officials. His remains have not been found.
Turkey said the ruling did not meet global expectations.
“We still don’t know what happened to Khashoggi’s body, who wanted him dead or if there were local collaborators — which casts doubt on the credibility of the legal proceedings,” tweeted Fahrettin Altun, communications director at the Turkish presidency.
He urged the Saudi Arabian authorities to cooperate with Turkey’s investigation into the killing. In July, 20 Saudi Arabian suspects went on trial in absentia in Turkey.
Reporters Without Borders also condemned the verdict, with its secretary-general, Christophe Deloire, telling telling reporters that the opaque trial “did not respect the elementary principles of justice.”
Monday’s ruling underscores Saudi Arabian efforts to draw a line under the murder as the kingdom seeks to reboot its international image ahead of November’s G20 summit in Riyadh.
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