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Top court says Turkish judiciary made best efforts to investigate Khashoggi murder

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court, which has announced its reasoned opinion for rejecting an application filed by the fiancée of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said Turkey did its best to investigate the murder and bring its perpetrators to justice.

The court’s decision was published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday. The court said Turkish authorities exerted every effort to make sure that a thorough investigation of the murder was carried out and the perpetrators punished.

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 went to the consulate to get papers for his upcoming marriage to his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

The Constitutional Court rejected the application filed by Cengiz in May. Cengiz petitioned the court in May 2022 regarding a decision by Turkey to halt the murder trial in absentia of 26 suspects linked to the killing and transfer it to Riyadh.

According to the top court’s reasoned opinion, Turkey made the maximum effort in both the investigation of the murder and the prosecution of the defendants in Saudi Arabia for the delivery of justice; it asked for the extradition of the defendants from the Saudi authorities; and it had international arrest warrants issued for the suspects, but Saudi authorities refused to cooperate with Turkey and hand over the suspects.

The court said Turkish judicial authorities cannot be blamed for the failure of the murder investigation to proceed due to the refusal of the Saudi authorities to hand over the suspects, adding that they fulfilled all their constitutional obligations to take the necessary measures to protect the journalist’s right to life.

In April 2022 an İstanbul court confirmed a halt of the trial in absentia of 26 suspects linked to the killing of Khashoggi and its transfer to Riyadh, a decision that angered rights groups.

Cengiz resorted to the top court after appeals her lawyer filed at higher courts, objecting to the İstanbul 11th High Criminal Court’s decision to transfer the murder trial of Khashoggi to Riyadh, were later rejected.

In her petition she asked the top court to make a decision against the halt of the Khashoggi trial in Turkey and its transfer to Saudi Arabia. Cengiz said she was filing an individual application at the top court because she had exhausted all other legal remedies.

Cengiz claimed that the court decisions about the murder trial of the slain journalist run against the 17th Article of the Turkish Constitution and Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concern the right to life, as well as Article 3 of the convention, which is about the prohibition of torture.

The İstanbul 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 sought to heal the rift with Riyadh.

Prosecutors said the case was “dragging” because the court’s orders could not be carried out since the defendants were foreigners.

Five people were handed down death sentences by the kingdom over Khashoggi’s killing, but a Saudi court in September 2020 overturned them while giving jail terms of up to 20 years to eight unnamed defendants following secretive legal proceedings.

Although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan implicitly accused Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of masterminding the gruesome murder of Khashoggi, he has mended ties with him in past years due to what many said was Turkey’s desperation for investment due to its ailing economy.

Erdoğan visited Saudi Arabia in April 2022 and July 2023. He also hosted bin Salman in Ankara in June 2022.

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