Justice for Khashoggi in the time of coronavirus - YASIN AKTAY

Justice for Khashoggi in the time of coronavirus

The whole world is currently busy with an agenda determined by a virus, while ongoing developments also remind us that life also goes on.

There is no doubt that one of last year’s most important topics that remained the longest in the headlines was the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Khashoggi incident remained in the spotlight for over a year after the journalist was strangled to death by a 15-person crew that came from Saudi Arabia on two private planes, having received their instructions and made their plans. The assassination squad waited to kill him when he arrived at the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul to obtain a marriage certificate, and later dismembered and liquidated his body. All developments concerning the incident were closely followed by world media and political circles.

This incident was a turning point that exposed Saudi Arabia that had been making serious PR efforts with respect to presenting itself to the world as the perfect and amiable representative of Islam. What was instead revealed when that mask fell was a dirty exploitation of the “terrorism” or “Islamic extremism” rhetoric for its fight against its own legitimate and moderate opponents – in fact, against those that are not even opponents but that it considers as a likely alternative to its own power.

Scholars such as Salman Al-Awda, Awad al-Qarni, and Ali Al-Omari had not even dared to utter a single word against the king or crown prince. Their extremism was not the reason underlying their arrest either. On the contrary, everybody knows that they were among the most open-minded scholars of the Islamic world with intellectual depth. Perhaps their sole fault was that they refrained from applauding and signing praise to the crown prince’s practices. What was done to them was the real situation behind the “moderate” façade manufactured as a result of PR efforts. The Khashoggi incident revealed this in every aspect.

The Khashoggi murder was committed on Istanbul soil, however, all of those who have been determined to commit the crime had returned to where they had come from long before the first findings. Hence, how would justice expected and demanded by the whole world would be instituted had posed serious questions. The case filed by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office was progressing slow as all the suspects were abroad and the corpse was missing. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia had decided that it would conduct investigation into the suspects itself, because the incident took place on its own soil as all diplomatic mission buildings are under Saudi jurisdiction.

However, nobody was expecting a just decision to come out of a Saudi court that has been accepting the incident ever since the start only when irrefutable information was revealed and whose entire efforts have been to cover the role of some usual suspects and protect certain people. The first indictment of the case had already most explicitly reflected bias by stating that the likes of Qahtani and Asiri, who could not possibly be linked to the direct commissioning of the murder team, let alone the prince, have been found to have no role in this incident.

Consequently, the initial decision was confirmed in the case that was concluded in December, and it was stated that “since no evidence could be found to convict Qahtani and Asiri, a case was not even filed.” The investigation launched against 31 suspects in that case continued with focus on 11 people; five people were sentenced to death, while three were sentenced to 24 years in prison, and three were acquitted. It was decreed that the murder was not premeditated and planned, that it occurred as a result of a sudden clash, that only the five people in question were directly involved in the incident, and none of the remaining people have been charged with any wrongdoing in this incident.

We had described this decision to be one “that was akin to killing Khashoggi again.” This was a decision that mocked the human intellect. Of course, we had also said that despite this unsurprising decision, the real case is being executed by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, and it is this decision that should in fact be anticipated.

Consequently, last Wednesday, Prosecution announced through a press statement the opening of the first part of the case it completed based on the evidence it has long been collecting. According to the press statement, while Asiri and Qahtani were accused of making assignments to carry out the killing of Khashoggi, and “Intentionally Soliciting Murder through Planning and Monstrous Emotions by Torture” as the suspects who gave the necessary instructions to other suspects, the other 18 people are being accused of “instigating premeditated murder with monstrous intent.”

According to the statement, the defendants acted unanimously with the decision to commit a joint crime from the very beginning, made plans and distributed the work concerning all details of the action, and during the execution of the action to realize this plan, they reinforced and complemented each other, directly participated in the offense by means of effectively and functionally contributing to the commitment of the crime and, as a result, they strangeled to death the victim Jamal Khashoggi, whom they took under their joint area of control.

The most important detail of the declaration is the statement, “the investigation document has been separated in order to determine the other suspects.” Given the scope of the murder act and the way the crime was committed, these suspects have been referred to as “those who directly joined the intentional murder act, solicited this crime, and destroyed evidence in order to prevent the crime from being exposed,” and it is stated that the investigation is still ongoing through this compartmentalized order.

These statements indicate that prosecution is going to persist on this course regardless of how far the investigation may go.

What could be said other than to hope that it will continue. May justice be served. Justice will not harm anybody; it will reveal everything that happened in the end.


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