Opposition leaders accuse Erdoğan of selling national sovereignty by transferring Khashoggi murder trial to Riyadh

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)

Turkey’s opposition party leaders have criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the transfer to Saudi Arabia of the trial in absentia of suspects involved in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkish Minute reported on Wednesday.

In a move that attracted international condemnation and dashed hopes about the possibility of justice for Khashoggi, an İstanbul court on April 7 confirmed a halt of the trial of 26 suspects linked to the murder of Khashoggi and its transfer to Riyadh almost a week after Justice Minister Bozdağ said he would green-light a Turkish prosecutor’s request to that end.

The 59-year-old journalist was killed inside the Saudi Consulate General in İstanbul on October 2, 2018 in a gruesome murder that shocked the world.

Releasing a video on Twitter late on Wednesday, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu accused Erdoğan of “selling” Turkey’s national sovereignty by handing the case of Khashoggi’s murder over to Saudi Arabia.

“No matter [who] you are, no matter what you believe in, you cannot put a price on Jamal Khashoggi, who was the victim of a terrible murder in your land. … As for you, Erdoğan, you sold the national sovereignty of this state, this nation, with the [transfer of] the Khashoggi case. … You buried Turkey’s honor in the garden of the Saudi Consulate, you should be ashamed,” the CHP leader said.

Turkey’s nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener also accused the president of agreeing to the transfer of the Khashoggi trial in exchange for money from Saudi Arabia during a group meeting of her party on Wednesday.

“Mr. Crisis, how much did you sell the Khashoggi trial for? How much did you transfer the sovereignty of the state for?” Akşener said, addressing Erdoğan.

She continued: “They [the Justice and Development Party (AKP)] had said, ‘We’ll grow with exports, we’ll become rich.’ It turns out they were going to export a trial. … When the Saudi prince ordered it, they exported the Khashoggi case at jet speed. … He who doesn’t know his past can’t protect the present or the future.”

A Turkish court began the murder trial in 2020 with relations tense between the two Sunni Muslim regional powers.

While 26 people were on trial in absentia in Turkey, judicial proceedings were held for 11 people in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Arabian Attorney General’s Office stated that no legal action could be taken against the other 15 suspects named by the Turkish court due to a lack of evidence. Turkey’s transfer of the case will result in the acquittal of these people, based on Saudi law.

To Riyadh’s dismay, Turkey pressed ahead with the Khashoggi case and Erdoğan had, at the time, said the order to kill him came from the “highest levels” of government.

Subsequently, Saudi Arabia sought unofficially to put pressure on Turkey’s economy, with a boycott on Turkish imports.

Last year Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited Riyadh to mend fences with the kingdom, with Turkey desperate for investment to help pull it out of an economic crisis.

Turkey’s annual inflation soared to 61.1 percent in March, according to official data released earlier this month.

Transferring the case to Riyadh removes the last obstacle to a normalization of ties.

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