A Saudi Arabian court on Monday jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years for the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, state media reported, four months after his family forgave his killers and enabled death sentences to be set aside.
Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen on Oct. 2, 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to obtain documents for his impending wedding. Turkish officials allege he was killed and then his body was dismembered and removed from the building. His remains have not been found.
Turkish investigators say a team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the consulate for his appointment for documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée, 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.
State media reported that five people were handed 20-year prison sentences, one person was sentenced to 10 years and two people were handed seven-year sentences for the killing of the Washington Post columnist.
The murder caused a global uproar and tarnished the reformist image of Prince Mohammed, son of King Salman and the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
“As everyone knows [those] responsible of this murder are not just these eight people who are sentenced. Indeed, we should focus on who are behind this murder, who planned and ordered it,” Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, wrote in one of her Twitter statements after the verdict was handed down.
This is my statement in response to the ruling today. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Khashoggi?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Khashoggi</a> <a href=”https://t.co/rPxzWhetb1″>pic.twitter.com/rPxzWhetb1</a>
The Riyadh Criminal Court’s final verdicts were announced by Saudi Arabia’s state television, which aired few details about the eight Saudi nationals and did not name them.
At an earlier stage of the trial in December, the court sentenced five people to death and three to jail, saying then that the killing was not premeditated, but carried out “at the spur of the moment.”
Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, said they believed Prince Mohammed had ordered the killing.
Saudi officials denied he played a role, though in September 2019 the prince indicated some personal accountability, saying “it happened under my watch.”
In May, the family of the slain journalist said they forgave his murderers, paving the way for a reprieve for the five defendants sentenced to death.
In Saudi Arabia, which lacks a codified legal system and follows Islamic law, forgiveness from a victim”s family in such cases can allow for a formal pardon and a stay of execution.