Evaluating Monday verdict of a Saudi court over slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkish experts said the decision does not bind Turkey and called for carrying out legal process in Istanbul, where the incident took place.
Criminal lawyer Ersan Sen told Anadolu Agency that only Turkey has the judiciary rights on the Khashoggi case in the world.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and a U.S. resident, was murdered after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 of last year on a visit to pick up paperwork for his forthcoming marriage.
“The UN, U.S., or Saudi Arabia, no matter who says what, it does not bind the Republic of Turkey,” Sen said, highlighting that Ankara has not given up the judiciary process of Khashoggi.
A Saudi court on Monday sentenced five people to death for taking part in the murder of Khashoggi in a trial of 11 people.
Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor and spokesman Shalaan al-Shalaan said three people were given jail terms totaling 24 years in prison for their role in covering up the crime and violating the law.
Al-Shalaan said the court dismissed the charges against three other suspects and found them not guilty, including former royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani, former consul general in Istanbul Mohammed al-Oteibi and Ahmed Assiri, the former intelligence deputy chief.
Sen also called on the top prosecutors in Istanbul to complete the investigation as soon as possible and file a case by concluding the indictment even though the fugitives are not arrested.
“Red notice should be issued for these people and it should be handed to Interpol,” he said, noting that the instigator and hitman of the incident should be found even if it reaches out to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
“This has taken too long,” he said, adding Turkey is left with no patience to wait anymore.
“A person has been made to disappear on the lands of Turkey. Turkish law, Turkish Penal Code has been violated,” Sen stressed.
He added that it is a well-known fact that whichever country the crime is committed, that country’s laws are implemented.
Sen noted that no one can take Turkey’s judiciary rights from its hands, as long as Ankara does not hand over its authority.
Saudi Arabia fails in justice exam
Head of Lawyer’s Association Cavit Tatli also said the real culprits of the murder remain untried as al-Qahtani and Assiri were released.
Tatli said it was not a legal but a humanitarian responsibility to find and punish the perpetrators of the murder, even though the convicts, who were secretly tried in nine hearings, have the right to appeal.
“Saudi Arabia has failed in the exam of rights, law and justice. The Saudi judiciary has not been able to meet the conscientious expectations of people in terms of justice,” Tatli said, noting that the court did not make any accusations against key names in the murder.
Turan Kislakci, head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, also said many Saudi state officials were involved in Khashoggi killing, but the hitmen were punished rather than the instigators.
Kislakci noted that Riyadh tries to elude the incident by sentencing five among many others to the death penalty.
“This issue might be closed for them, but it continues for us,” he added, pointing at a UN report on the killing.
UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard concluded in a report that it was a “deliberate, premeditated execution” and encouraged Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to be investigated.
Saudi officials blamed rogue agents for the murder but insisted the Saudi prince was not involved.
Turkey has been asking whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body since the beginning, Kislakci stressed.
“They had to tell us where the body is. But they have not yet made any statement on this till today,” he added.
‘Only impartial investigation can shed light on murder’
Amnesty International Turkey Office Campaigns and Communications Director Tarik Beyhan said the Saudi authorities are far from transparency and an independent judiciary.
Noting that the murder can only be uncovered through an independent and impartial investigation, Beyhan said: “Unfortunately, the trial of Jamal Khashoggi is tried to be completed in a country where the independence of the judiciary is suspected with the lack principles of a fair trial.”
He said it is seen as an attempt to cover up the incident, calling on Saudi authorities to open their doors for an independent international investigation process.
“The decision taken by the Saudi judiciary is non-binding for international rights organizations,” Beyhan said.