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Khashoggi murder case closed by Turkish court ahead of Saudi crown prince visit

An Istanbul court closed the case into the killing of the Middle East Eye columnist five days before Mohammed bin Salman's visit to Turkey
Friends of Jamal Khashoggi hold posters bearing his picture as they attend a protest in front of Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate on 2 October 2020 (AFP)
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Izmir

A Turkish court closed the case into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi on 17 June, five days before Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Ankara, it has emerged.

Istanbul's 11th Heavy Penal Court shut down the case on Friday, citing a set of legal reasons, according to documents seen by MEE. Saudi judicial authorities had said many of the suspects had already been tried in the kingdom.

The Istanbul court said a statement from Riyadh Criminal Court's First Joint Chamber said 10 of the 26 suspects had already been tried in the kingdom, receiving sentences of up to 20 years in prison, making the Turkish trial unnecessary.

Khashoggi, a Middle East Eye and Washington Post columnist, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018, in a murder that shocked the world and which continues to have ramifications.

Ankara-Riyadh relations worsened significantly after the killing, but Turkey has since sought to mend ties with Saudi Arabia in a bid to bolster its economy.

Turkey met one of the kingdom's key demands earlier this year when it handed over the case to Saudi Arabia.

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The Riyadh court, after inspecting the Turkish court dossier on the assasination, also decided that there was no fresh evidence to suggest the 11 remaining suspects should be retried. 

The Riyadh court also added that the authotiries could not establish any connection between the murder and the remaining four suspects who were also part of the joint Turkish-Saudi team to investigate the murder. 

The Istanbul court, in return, said it did not have the means and evidence to continue the trial under such circumstances since it could not listen to the testimony of the suspects. The court said international legal principles and precedents suggest it should drop the case, since it doesn't have sufficient probable cause to continue against the remaining suspects - who have not been found guilty in Saudi courts. 

Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's fiancee, still has a right to appeal the decision in one of Turkey's higher court. But if that court upholds the ruling, Cengiz has only one another option: A second lawsuit in a US federal court filed alongside the US-based advocacy group Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn), which Khashoggi established and ran.

The judge in the Washington lawsuit has yet to rule whether the court has jurisdiction. If it does, the lawsuit could open what one source described as a "Pandora's box" of information, with the court potentially demanding that the Saudi crown prince gives evidence in person.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Ankara on Wednesday and was welcomed with a ceremony that included a 21-gun salute.

A subsequent joint declaration by the two governments underlined an intention to deepen trade, energy and defence ties as well as political and regional cooperation and consultation. 

The Turkish president's efforts to improve relations with Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates, come as Ankara faces a major economic crisis, with official inflation at 73.5 percent and a presidential election slated for next year.