Skip to main content

Khashoggi murder: Turkey to begin trial in absentia of suspects

Khashoggi's fiancee will attend the first hearing of the case, involving 20 Saudi suspects linked to Crown Prince
People hold posters, picturing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, outside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, on 25 October 2018. (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Istanbul

A Turkish court will begin to try 20 Saudi suspects in absentia on Friday who are believed to be involved in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of the murdered journalist, told Middle East Eye that the trial will take place in Istanbul at Caglayan courthouse and she will personally attend the first hearing.

In March, the Istanbul prosecutor filed an indictment that accused two close associates of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as perpetrators, describing the former deputy head of Saudi Arabia's general intelligence Ahmed al-Asiri and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani as having "instigated premeditated murder with monstrous intent".

The indictment accuses 18 others of carrying out the killing of Khashoggi, a US resident and columnist for Middle East Eye and the Washington Post.

Among those listed are Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a former diplomat and intelligence officer who has been repeatedly pictured with bin Salman; Salah Mohammed Tubaigy, the head of forensic evidence at the Saudi General Security Department; and Fahad al-Balawi, a member of the Saudi royal guard.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


The 18 were charged with "deliberately and monstrously killing, causing torment" and face life in jail if convicted.

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, and Erol Onderoglu, Turkey's representative for Reporters without Borders, will also join the hearing on Friday.

Khashoggi, who criticised bin Salman's policies, was murdered at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018. His remains have never been recovered.

Mutreb, Tubaigy and Balawi had been among the 11 people on trial in Riyadh, during which sources said many of those accused of the murder defended themselves by saying they were carrying out Asiri's orders, describing him as the operation's "ringleader".

In December, a Saudi court sentenced five people to death and three to jail over the journalist's murder. But a Saudi prosecutor said there was no evidence connecting Qahtani to the killing and the court dismissed charges against Asiri.

Khashoggi's son Salah said in a statement posted to Twitter in May that the family has forgiven the killers, opening a way for the suspects to get a pardon or commutation of sentence. 

A UN probe revealed that Saudi government agents had discussed murdering and dismembering Khashoggi before his arrival at the building, referring to the journalist as "the sacrificial animal".

The Turkish indictment indicates that investigators focused on a well and an oven located at the Saudi consul-general’s residence in the search for the slain journalist's body, but couldn't resolve the mystery behind its disappearance.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.