Justice in Khashoggi murder case seems more elusive than ever on 4th anniversary

Turkish writer Hatice Cengiz (R), fiancée of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, poses next to a portrait of Khashoggi after unveiling it on the National Mall in Washington, DC., on October 1, 2021, during a memorial ceremony marking the third anniversary of his murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

Although four years have passed since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in İstanbul, not only are the whereabouts of his remains still a mystery, but there is almost no hope that the perpetrators of the murder will be held to account, according to Turkish Minute.

The 59-year-old journalist was killed inside the Saudi Consulate General in İstanbul on Oct. 2, 2018 in a gruesome murder that shocked the world. Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to get papers for his upcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

Turkey attracted a barrage of criticism from local and international rights groups when an İstanbul court in April confirmed the halt of the trial in absentia of 26 suspects linked to the killing of Khashoggi and its “transfer” to Riyadh.

The İstanbul court had begun the trial in 2020, when relations were tense between the two Sunni Muslim regional powers. But with Turkey desperate for investment to help pull it out of an economic crisis, Ankara has sought to heal the rift with Riyadh.

The fourth anniversary of Khashoggi’s murder received no attention from the pro-government press in Turkey or from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and members of his government. Only a few opposition party lawmakers and rights groups remembered the anniversary and continued to call for justice for the slain journalist.

“Today is the anniversary of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, which was committed on our territory. They [the government] turned the murder case over to the people who dismembered his body,” tweeted Yunus Emre, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

He accused Erdoğan and his government of welcoming Khashoggi’s murderer with a grand ceremony in Ankara.

“We will never forget those who caused Turkey to experience this shame,” said Emre.

The opposition lawmaker was referring to the welcoming of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is suspected of masterminding the Khashoggi murder, with a ceremony in Ankara in June when he paid his first visit to Turkey since the journalist’s death.

Erdoğan received the crown prince at his presidential palace and then hosted him at a private dinner.

The kingdom’s state media released a picture of Erdoğan embracing the crown prince, an image that created a furor in Turkey.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu angrily accused Erdoğan of hugging the killer due to the warm reception he gave to the crown prince.

US intelligence officials have determined that Crown Prince Mohammed approved the plot to kill Khashoggi — which Riyadh denies.

Erdoğan previously held the government of Saudi Arabia responsible for the murder, but his reviving ties with one of his biggest rivals are said to be driven in large part by economy and trade.

Khashoggi’s fiancée, who released a video message on Twitter on the fourth anniversary of the journalist’s murder, said the fact that Khashoggi’s killers are still “at large” should not prevent people from believing in his values and defending his principles and from supporting and upholding his message and carrying on his valiant struggle.

“Our fight is to speak out against injustice and to keep spreading awareness so something similar won’t happen again,” she said, adding that Jamal’s name will never be forgotten.

“Justice for Jamal, justice of all of us,” Cengiz added.

Reporters without Borders (RSF), which also released a statement on the occasion of the anniversary of Khashoggi’s death, said four years after the brutal assassination, none of the 26 men implicated in his murder have faced any real punishment and that the man accused of leading them, Saud al-Qahtani, never even stood trial.

“Away from the public eye since 2019, the former royal advisor’s name has made a recent comeback within the Kingdom’s social media networks, amid reports hinting at his imminent return to the heart of government: a government now officially headed by none other than Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman himself,” said RSF.

Khashoggi’s widow, Hanan Elatr, who wrote an opinion piece for The Guardian newspaper for the fourth anniversary of the death of her husband, criticized Turkey for not delivering evidence to her related to Khashoggi’s murder.

“The Turkish government has been clear that it does not intend to proceed with either the investigation into my husband’s murder or the trial,” Elatr wrote.

She said his personal devices — two mobile phones, a laptop and a tablet — were significant proof of her husband’s case but that those pieces of evidence are still in the hands of the Turkish government.

She said the Turkish government should immediately hand Khashoggi’s devices over to her for a lawsuit she intends to file in the US. “I want all parties to be held accountable for my husband’s murder, including the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the [spyware maker] NSO Group.”

Elatr is preparing to sue the NSO Group in the US, claiming she was targeted by the Israeli company’s Pegasus software.

According to Elatr, Khashoggi’s private conversations with her were constantly monitored before his murder. She has personally asked for all the evidence from President Erdoğan but has been unable to secure it.

She has also applied to Avril Haines, the US director of national intelligence, to help her with her legal action in the US.

While the case was being investigated in 2019, Dr. Agnès Callamard, the former UN special rapporteur, asked for Khashoggi’s personal devices. However, the Turkish government refused, claiming the examination of those devices was “ongoing,” Elatr said in her op-ed.

“I hoped that during the highly anticipated trial in Turkey, the prosecutor would reveal key evidence they had collected on Jamal’s devices,” she said. “But this was never to be, as the trial in Turkey has been halted and moved to Saudi Arabia without any answers.”

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