Saudi Arabia is seeking the death penalty for 5 men who are accused of being connected to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, on October 2.
Khashoggi had entered the consulate seeking documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancé. His partner waited in the car for around 10 hours before she alerted the police to his disappearance. Saudi Arabia denied its responsibility at first and claimed that the journalist, who was a columnist for the Washington Post and a U.S. resident, had left the consulate shortly after entering. But after weeks of pressure from Turkey, which had collected evidence that Khashoggi was brutally murdered in the consulate the day he entered, the Saudi leadership admitted that the journalist was dead and launched its own investigation.
The kingdom claims that Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was unaware of the plan to murder the journalist, but security experts say that it is impossible that such an attack could be carried out without the crown prince’s knowledge. Nevertheless, the Saudi leadership has determined others will take the fall. The identity of the officials Saudi Arabia has selected for the death penalty is still unknown, but a small handful of high-level officials have been accused of Khashoggi’s death.
One of the men is Saud al-Qahtani, a royal court adviser who worked closely with the Crown Prince over the years and sometimes acted as his spokesman. Qahtani played an active role in promoting the Saudi government line on social media and in the press. He had allegedly ordered one of his aides, General Maher Mutreb, to carry out the murder plot.
Mutreb, who works closely with al-Qahtani, is a top intelligence official and part of the crown prince’s security team. Saudi officials say that Mutreb was the man in charge of directing the murder in the Saudi consulate from start to finish.
Salah Tubaigy, an expert in forensics at the Saudi interior ministry, has also been named as one of the men who was in Turkey when the journalist was killed. He has been accused of removing the evidence of the murder from the Saudi consulate.
Saudi official Moustafa al-Madani allegedly led the intelligence efforts of the 15-man team that traveled to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi. He also allegedly wore Khashoggi’s clothes when leaving the building.
Experts say that it’s likely the men won’t be executed because of the Saudi Kingdom’s unique legal system.
“The Saudi court system and prosecutor’s office are not independent and do not meet the minimum of international standards. Due to the political nature of this case and its connection to MBS, the court will organized this to the Saudi Monarchy designs,” Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Gulf Affairs, told Newsweek.
“In a nutshell, there is a zero chance for any reasonable processes of investigation or trial for this case in Saudi Arabia. The only option available for this case is an international investigation and trial by a U.N. body.”