Istanbul, Jul 3 (efe-epa).- Twenty Saudi citizens went on trial in absentia in Turkey on Friday for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Saudi reporter, 59, who was a vocal critic of the Saudi royal family, was killed inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018.
A former high-ranking Saudi secret service official and two former advisers to Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman are among those accused of being involved in his murder.
There was a strong police presence at the court building in the Çaglayan district of Istanbul and media from around the world were in attendance to cover the criminal proceedings, the first into Khashoggi’s death.
The prosecutor’s office has asked for a sentence of life imprisonment for any of the defendants convicted of murder.
Ahmed al-Asiri, former deputy director of the Saudi secret services, and the royal court’s media adviser Saud al-Qahtani, are both accused of instigating the premeditated murder.
The other 18 defendants, all Saudi officials, have been charged with premeditated murder and torture.
They are believed to have been present at the Saudi consulate, where the journalist was last seen alive.
Khashoggi, who was living in the United States, went to the consulate to collect documents he needed for his upcoming wedding but never left the building.
None of the defendants were present for the trial, despite requests from Turkey for their arrest and extradition through Interpol.
Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting for him outside the consulate on the day he was murdered, is attending the proceedings and is expected to testify.
United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Agnes Callamard, who directly linked the crown prince to the killing, representatives from Amnesty International Turkey and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) were also in attendance.
Callamard has told the BBC Khashoggi was “the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible”.
Turkish officials say a team of hitmen from Riyadh tortured Khashoggi and suffocated him with a plastic bag before dismembering his body, which has never been found.
Saudi Arabia announced in December that five unnamed people had been sentenced to death and three others jailed for the murder but exonerated al-Qahtani. EFE-EPA