Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death on Monday for the killing of Washington Post columnist and royal family critic Jamal Khashoggi, whose murder in the Saudi Consulate General in İstanbul drew sharp international criticism and marred the crown prince’s relationship with members of Congress in Washington, The Associated Press reported.
The Riyadh criminal court found another three people guilty of covering up the crime. They were sentenced to a combined 24 years in prison, according to a statement read by the Saudi attorney general’s office on state TV.
In total, 11 people had been on trial in Saudi Arabia for the killing, but the government has not made their names public. All the verdicts are preliminary and can be appealed.
A handful of diplomats, including from Turkey, as well as members of Khashoggi’s family were allowed to attend the nine court sessions, though independent media were barred.
While the case in Saudi Arabia has largely concluded, questions linger in the international court of public opinion about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s culpability in the slaying.
Khashoggi, who was a resident of the US, had walked into his country’s consulate on Oct. 2, 2018 for a scheduled appointment to pick up documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée. He never walked out and his body has not been found.
A team of 15 Saudi agents were flown specifically to Turkey to meet Khashoggi that day inside the consulate. They included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers and individuals who worked for the crown prince’s office, according to an independent UN probe.
His death stunned Saudi Arabia’s Western allies and immediately raised questions about how the high-level operation could have been carried out without the knowledge of Prince Mohammed — even as the kingdom insists the crown prince had nothing to do with the killing.
The trial concluded the killing was not premeditated, according to Shaalan al-Shaalan, a spokesperson from the Saudi attorney general’s office.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday issued a statement slamming the Saudi court’s verdict, saying it fell short of the expectations of Turkey and the international community.
“The fact that important aspects such as the fate of Mr. Khashoggi’s body, the masterminds of the murder and any local collaborators remain in the dark, is a fundamental lapse of justice and violates the principle of accountability,” it said in English on its website.