Temel Karamollaoğlu, the leader of Turkey’s Islamist opposition Felicity Party (SP), said on Thursday that transferring a case involving the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia would undermine Ankara’s credibility, Turkish media reported.
A Turkish court on Thursday confirmed a halt of the trial in absentia of 26 suspects linked to the murder of Khashoggi and its transfer to Riyadh.
“This case reveals how [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan can zigzag on such issues. … His zigzags, however, undermine Turkey’s credibility,” Karamollaoğlu said.
The 59-year-old journalist was killed inside the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 in a gruesome murder that shocked the world.
A Turkish court began the trial in 2020 with relations 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 judge told the court, “We have decided to halt the trial and hand the case over to Saudi Arabia.”
The court decision comes almost a week after Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said he would greenlight a Turkish prosecutor’s request to hand the case over to Saudi Arabia, at the demand of the latter.
Five people were sentenced to death by the kingdom over Khashoggi’s killing, but a Saudi court in September 2020 overturned the verdicts while handing down prison terms of up to 20 years to eight unnamed defendants following secretive legal proceedings.
To Riyadh’s dismay, Turkey pressed ahead with the Khashoggi case, and President Erdoğan had at the time said the order to kill him came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
In the years that followed, Saudi Arabia sought to unofficially put pressure on Turkey’s economy, with a boycott of Turkish imports.
Last year Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited Riyadh to repair fences with the kingdom.
The transfer of the case to Riyadh removes the last obstacle to normalizing ties.