In Istanbul, the “symbolic” trial of the assassins of Jamal Khashoggi

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“Let’s not forget that this is a state assassination “, Bluntly launched Agnès Callamard, United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, on the forecourt of the imposing Caglayan Courthouse in Istanbul, where we also meet, this Friday, July 3, Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee by Jamal Khashoggi.

The first hearing of the trial of the twenty alleged murderers of the Saudi journalist is held, in their absence, in a modest room of the 11th Criminal Court, in very small staff. An appearance of banality, for a trial which was not intended to be.

Famous Saudi editorial writer, pen of Washington Post Since his exile in the United States in 2017, Jamal Khashoggi has been sparing his criticisms of the rulers of the kingdom. He was murdered in particularly savage and trying conditions on October 2, 2018, inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. His body, probably evacuated from places in bags by Saudi emissaries, in several pieces, has never been found.

“Give the floor to witnesses”

After becoming entangled in different versions of the events, the Saudi crown tried to portray the assassination as the act of isolated individuals who allegedly escaped its control, while the American press mentioned a CIA report. directly incriminating Crown Prince Mohamed ben Salman.

The trial, which took place on Saudi soil, ended in December 2019 with the death sentence of five Saudis, and prison terms for three of the eleven accused. ” A travesty of justice As Agnès Callamard continues to denounce, who had submitted in June 2019 a report on the murder overwhelming the Saudi Crown Prince. For the woman who claims since an international investigation, the Turkish trial in absentia has the merit of ” give the floor to witnesses ” and of ” ensuring that victims are heard ».

« When I learned of Jamal’s murder, it was a huge shock. ” confides an Egyptian journalist, AA, installed in Istanbul for seven years, who frequented the Saudi intellectual. ” Although I am younger, we had the same profile, he continues. We were both critical of the regimes of our countries, we traveled abroad, we tried to think about the reforms in the Middle East. The message was clear. If it happened to a man as famous as Jamal, it could happen to anyone, and we were no longer safe in Istanbul. “

“Whatever the decision, how will it be implemented? “

For Syrian, Egyptian or Yemeni opponents, Istanbul is the rear base in the Middle East in their fight against authoritarian regimes in the region. The Turkish trial could therefore appear to them as an opportunity to restore confidence among the Arab communities. But the Egyptian journalist has little illusion about his outcome. “The accused are tried in absentia. Whatever decision is made, how will it be implemented? “, he laments, while noting that ” few intellectuals from the Arab world will follow the trial, except perhaps to show their support for Turkish President Erdogan ”.

« I don’t think this trial will get going ”, adds researcher Erhan Kelesoglu, who does not see, on this occasion, ” Khashoggi case return to the forefront of the international scene “. In fact, this specialist in Turkish foreign policy underlines, the general interest of the great powers is rather to turn this painful page.

Since a CIA report in December 2018 had highlighted the responsibility of Mohamed ben Salman, taking back the position of the White House, “The Trump administration has not taken any initiatives on the file. As for the EU, it strongly condemned but ultimately did not apply any sanctions against Saudi Arabia ”, emphasizes Erhan Kelesoglu, for whom it will be ” rather a symbolic process. ” The next hearing is scheduled for October 24, after the 2nd anniversary of the death of Jamal Khashoggi.

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