The publisher of the Washington Post on Monday blasted the Saudi government for what he called a “sham trial” after a Riyadh court sentenced five people to death for the killing of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, while exonerating top government officials and members of the royal family.
“The complete lack of transparency and the Saudi government’s refusal to cooperate with independent investigators suggests that this was merely a sham trial,” Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan said in a statement. “Those ultimately responsible, at the highest level of the Saudi government, continue to escape responsibility for the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen living in the U.S., disappeared after walking into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, to pick up documents he needed for his planned marriage to a Turkish citizen. Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi government agents and his corpse dismembered with a bone saw. The CIA concluded with “high confidence” that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Khashoggi, whose column in the Post was critical of the Saudi regime.
The crown prince has denied knowledge about the murder. President Trump has repeated his denials. Bin Salman has had a close relationship with Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has attempted to recruit him into his Middle East peace plan.
“King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi,” Trump said in a statement last year. “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
“That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” he added.
Trump has yet to comment publicly on Monday’s verdict.
The White House issued a statement calling it “an important step in holding those responsible for this terrible crime accountable, and we encourage Saudi Arabia to continue with a fair and transparent judicial process.”
In addition to the five sentenced to death, three other people were found guilty of covering up the crime and were sentenced to a combined 24 years in prison. Their names were not made public. Three high-ranking officials, including a former top adviser to Mohammed bin Salman, were either acquitted or had charges dropped.
In all, 11 people were put on trial in Saudi Arabia over the killing. According to the Associated Press, a small number of diplomats as well as members of Khashoggi’s family were allowed to attend the trial, though members of independent media outlets were barred.
“Fairness of the judiciary is based on two principles, justice and swift litigation,” Salah Khashoggi, the son of the slain journalist, said on Twitter. “Today, justice was served to children of... Jamal Khashoggi. We affirm our confidence in the Saudi judiciary at all levels.” Salah and his three siblings have received houses and monthly stipends of $10,000 from the kingdom in compensation for their father’s death.
Agnes Callamard, a U.N. special rapporteur who issued a 101-page report earlier this year linking the killing to the Saudi royal family, called proceedings a “mockery.”
“The hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death,” Callamard tweeted. “The masterminds not only walk free, they have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial. That is the antithesis of Justice. It is a mockery.”
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