Prosecutor Seeks End to Khashoggi Murder Trial in Turkey


ANKARA, Turkey—The Turkish prosecutor in the case against 26 Saudi nationals charged in the slaying of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi made a request Thursday that their trial in absentia be suspended and the case transferred to Saudi Arabia.

The panel of judges made no ruling on the prosecutor’s request but said a letter would be sent to Turkey’s Justice Ministry seeking its opinion on the possible transfer of the file to Saudi judicial authorities, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Trial was adjourned until April 7.

The development comes as Turkey has been trying to normalize its relationship with Saudi Arabia, which hit an all-time low following Khashoggi’s grisly October 2018 killing. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview on Thursday that Saudi authorities were more cooperative on judicial issues with Turkey, but did not elaborate.

In arguing for the transfer, the prosecutor told the court that the Saudi chief public prosecutor’s office requested the Turkish proceedings be transferred to the kingdom in a letter dated March 13, and that international warrants issued by Ankara against the defendants be lifted, according to the private DHA news agency.

The prosecutor said that because the arrest warrants cannot be executed and defense statements cannot be taken, the case would remain inconclusive in Turkey.

Khashoggi disappeared on Oct. 2, 2018, after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, seeking documents that would allow him to marry Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish national who was waiting outside the building. He never emerged.

Turkish officials allege that the Saudi national, who was a United States resident, was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate. His body has not been found. Prior to his killing, Khashoggi had written critically of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince in columns for the Washington Post.

Turkish authorities said he was killed by a team of Saudi agents. Those on trial in absentia include two former aides of the prince.

Saudi officials initially offered conflicting accounts concerning the killing, including claims that Khashoggi had left the consulate building unharmed. Later they stated that Khashoggi’s death was a tragic accident, with the meeting unexpectedly turning violent.

Turkey decided to try the defendants in absentia after Saudi Arabia rejected Turkish demands for their extradition.

Some of the men were put on trial in Riyadh behind closed doors. A Saudi court issued a final verdict in 2020 that sentenced five mid-level officials and operatives to 20-year jail terms. The court had originally ordered the death penalty, but reduced the punishment after Khashoggi’s son Salah, who lives in Saudi Arabia, announced that he forgave the defendants. Three others were sentenced to lesser jail terms.

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