Jamal Khashoggi’s killers spared death sentence

Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi was an outspoken critic of the Saudi government. Source: POMED (via Wikimedia Commons)
Following a trial into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, five of those found guilty were given the death sentence until a plea from Khashoggi's children.

By Hallum Cowell | Deputy Editor

The five people convicted for involvement in the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi have had their sentence’s – previously to death – commuted. The five will now serve 20-year jail terms after Mr Khashoggi’s family intervened. 

What happened to Mr Khashoggi?

The journalist was murdered in 2018 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. It was later revealed that he was murdered by Saudi agents who, the Saudi government claims, were conducting a “rogue operation”. They claim that the team who murdered Mr Khashoggi were meant to return the journalist to Saudi Arabia and had instead killed him. 

As a long-standing critic of the Saudi government, Jamal Khashoggi’s murder caused huge outcry from the international community with many seeing it as an attack on journalistic freedom and a threat to those who would seek to ask tough questions of the ruling elite. 

What has the trial been like so far?

Following international pressure, Saudi Arabia placed eight people on trial in connection to the murder in December 2019, including two former aids to the Saudi Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The Crown Prince himself denies any involvement. 

Five of those on trial were sentenced to death, while the other three were given prison terms for their part in covering up the crime. 

Despite the trial, and the denial of involvement from Saudi officials, UN special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard called the trial “the antithesis of justice”, adding that Mr Khashoggi was “the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution” and claiming the Saudi government were responsible for this murder. 

Many would rather see the trial conducted in Turkey, where the murder took place, however the Saudi government have insisted that the trial be held in Mr Khashoggi’s home country. 

The changing of the sentence

In May 2020 those sentenced to death had their sentence changed to 20 years in jail. 

The change came after Mr Khashoggi’s children asked those convicted to be spared the death sentence. Salah, Mr Khashoggi’s son, said that “if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah.” 

“Therefore, we the sons of the Martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce pardoning those who killed our father, seeking reward from God almighty.”

Salah Khashoggi added that he did not believe the murder of his father was premeditated and therefore would not want those found guilty to be sentenced to death.

Under Saudi law a death sentence can be commuted if a pardon is issued by the victim’s family. 

Hatice Cengiz, Mr Khashoggi’s fiancée and Turkish citizen, did not agree with the decision made by Salah Khashoggi and his siblings. She said that “Jamal was killed inside his country’s consulate while getting the documents to complete our marriage. The killers came from Saudi Arabia with premeditation to lure, ambush [and] kill him.”

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