https://ahvalnews.com-A Turkish prosecutor’s request to transfer legal proceedings for the murder of Saudi dissident columnist and political activist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia would dash any remaining hopes of criminal justice, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.
The Turkish courts should do their part to fight impunity by seeing through the case for the 2018 murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, RSF said in a statement on Thursday, responding to the prosecutor’s statement at a hearing earlier in the day.
Istanbul’s Çağlayan court said at the hearing that it would ask the Justice Ministry for its opinion regarding the request. It set the next hearing for April 7.
“The prosecutor’s request to close the court process in Turkey after 21 months of proceedings is extremely disappointing,” said RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, who monitored the hearing. “Handing the case over to Saudi Arabia would be a serious blow to any remaining chance of criminal justice for Jamal Khashoggi’s killers. We urge the Turkish courts to do their part to fight impunity for this horrific crime by seeing this case through.”
The request to transfer the case comes as Turkey seeks to improve relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, fractured by Ankara’s support for political Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, and differences over Libya and other regional conflicts. Khashoggi was a staunch supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
RSF said it has been the only NGO to monitor the full court proceedings in Istanbul, which began in July 2020. Turkey is trying 26 Saudi nationals in absentia, who have been appointed Turkish lawyers. In March 2021, the court rejected a request by Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz to accept as evidence a declassified U.S. intelligence report linking Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the murder.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is seeking to repair ties with Gulf countries to help end its regional political isolation and raise capital for the country’s fragile economy, which suffered its second currency crisis in three years in 2021. Erdoğan faces re-election next year with inflation in the country at 54.4 percent, the highest level in two decades, and the lira posting losses against the dollar. The lira is down 10 percent this year after falling 44 percent in 2021.
Saudi Arabia held its own secretive trial for the crime in 2020. It failed to meet fair trial standards and made a mockery of justice, RSF said. Eight unidentified defendants were reportedly given sentences ranging from seven to 20 years in prison. A further three people were acquitted, including senior Saudi officials, it said.
RSF ranks Turkey 153rd and Saudi Arabia 170th out of 180 countries in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index.