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5 sentenced to death for Jamal Khashoggi murder; US calls Saudi trial an ‘important step’

Three other convicts received a total of 24 years in jail for ‘covering up the crime’.

SNS | New Delhi |

Saudi Arabia has sentenced five people to death for their role in the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018, the public prosecutor said on Monday.

“The court issued death sentences on five men who directly took part in the killing,” the prosecutor said in a statement.

In a press conference, spokesman for the public prosecutor Shalan al-Shalan explained that three other convicts received a total of 24 years in jail for ‘covering up the crime’, Efe news reported.

He added that 10 others were released due to a lack of evidence.

al-Shalan explained that investigations showed that “there was no prior intention to kill Khashoggi”.

Khashoggi, a staunch critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed on October 2 after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick up the paperwork needed for his planned marriage to his Turkish fiancée.

Saudi prosecutors had said deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri oversaw the Washington Post columnist’s killing in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in October 2018 and that he was advised by the royal court’s media czar Saud al-Qahtani.

However, Qahtani was investigated but not indicted “due to insufficient evidence” and Assiri was investigated and charged but eventually acquitted on the same grounds, the statement said.

Saudi officials initially denied Khashoggi’s death at the consulate but later acknowledged he had been killed when a fight broke out.

Saudi Arabia has said Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue operation” and put 11 defendants, all of whom are Saudi nationals, on trial earlier this year.

Although the United Nations and the United States Senate held the crown prince responsible for the crime, the kingdom’s strongman has not been prosecuted.

The 59-year-old had been a columnist for the Washington Post since 2017 after he left Saudi Arabia and was openly critical of his country’s monarchy.

The Post has condemned Khashoggi’s killing, with its editorial page editor Fred Hiatt qualifying it as “a monstrous and unfathomable act” if true, in a statement made in October.

Khashoggi’s disappearance had sparked an outcry from the international community, drawing condemnation from organizations and world leaders.

The United States has welcomed the death sentences issued by the Saudi court against five people for murdering the journalist and called the verdict an “important step” in achieving justice.