Istanbul, Turkey – A man wearing a mask of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), fake blood on his hands, stood in front of the consulate where journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed more than three weeks ago.
The man was a member of a group called the Jamal Khashoggi Friends Association, which demanded justice for the killing of the Saudi writer during a vigil outside the Saudi office on Thursday night.
“On this occasion, and from this place where the spirit of Jamal has been lost, we clearly state that we will not accept compromises in the case of his murder, and that we will not keep silent on any attempt to evade any criminal from accountability and punishment,” the group’s spokesperson said in a statement.
The vigil came just hours after Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said the October 2 murder of the Saudi critic was premeditated. The statement marked yet another reversal of previous remarks made Saudi officials.
Khashoggi’s supporters also gathered in several other cities around the world, including Paris and Washington, DC, calling for those responsible for the murder to be held accountable.
“Friends of Jamal from several countries met to establish this group, which aims to pursue and achieve full justice for Jamal [and] prosecute the murderers without any impunity,” the group said in Istanbul.
“We also seek to confront any similar crime against any opinion leader and defend the freedom of expression in the Middle East region,” it added.
But the event was not just a call for justice for the slain Saudi journalist, it was an appeal to leaders in the Middle East to respect freedom of speech, highlighting that journalism is not a crime.
In a region where journalists, activists and human rights defenders are regularly put behind bars, the Khashoggi murder highlighted the dangers journalists can face.
“We also call upon the governments of the region to safeguard these liberties, guaranteed by their constitutions and laws,” the group said.
“We call for respecting freedom of the press and providing security and safety for those working in the media so that they can carry out their mission without fear or intimidation,” it said.
We will follow all legitimate means to achieve full justice for Jamal, so as not to wake up to another murdered Jamal
Erol Onderoglu, a representative for Reporters Without Borders, said the statement made was important for journalists all over the Middle East.
“I hope this initiative will create strong resonance in developing an efficient protection for journalists at a global level,” Onderoglu told Al Jazeera.
“It is also important that Arabic journalists based in Turkey start to feel more secure,” he added.
Organisers of the vigil demanded all “prisoners of conscience in the Middle East be released”.
“Since Jamal, may God have mercy on him, had committed himself to defend the opinion leaders of his country, who are now detained by Saudi authorities, we will continue to demand that all authorities across the Middle East immediately release all opinion leaders and political prisoners,” their statement added.
“We will follow all legitimate means to achieve full justice for Jamal, so as not to wake up to another murdered Jamal.”