A Saudi court has issued final verdicts Monday in the 2018 killing of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, sentencing eight to prison, according to state television.
The names of those convicted were not made public, but Riyadh Criminal Court reportedly ordered a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for five. Another received a 10-year sentence, and two others were ordered to serve seven years in prison.
Yet the trial has been widely criticized by rights groups and an independent U.N. investigator, who noted that no senior officials nor anyone suspected of ordering the killing were found guilty. The independence of the court has also been brought into question.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman smiles as he attends the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2018. Prince Mohammed has denied any knowledge of the operation that resulted in Khashoggi’s death. (AP)
Prior to his killing, Khashoggi had written critically of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in columns for the Washington Post. He’d been living in exile in the United States for about a year as Prince Mohammed oversaw a crackdown in Saudi Arabia on human rights activists, writers and critics of the kingdom’s devastating war in Yemen.
Khashoggi was killed in late 2018 inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the consulate for his appointment to pick up documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiance, 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.
Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate. His body has not been found. Turkey apparently had the Saudi Consulate bugged and shared audio of the killing with the C.I.A., among others.
Western intelligence agencies, as well as the U.S. Congress, have said the crown prince bears ultimate responsibility for the killing and that an operation of this magnitude could not have happened without his knowledge. But the crown prince has denied any knowledge of the operation.
Salah Khashoggi, one of the writer’s sons, lives in Saudi Arabia and has received financial compensation from the royal court for his father’s killing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.