Saudi Arabia puts Jamal Khashoggi murder suspects on trial

Saudi state media says prosecutor has demanded death penalty for five of the 11 defendants.

    Saudi Arabia's state media says the 11 suspected killers of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi have attended their first court hearing in the capital, Riyadh.

    The official Saudi Press Agency said the prosecutor, the country's attorney general, has demanded the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects.

    A statement from prosecutors said the suspects attended the hearing with their lawyers.

    The statement also said that prosecutors sent a request to Turkey for evidence that Ankara has collected while investigating the slaying, which has badly hurt the kingdom's international reputation and strained its ties with Western countries.

    Khashoggi went missing on October 2 while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish authorities later revealed that he was murdered inside the consulate by a Saudi hit squad.

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    Ankara demanded that the suspects be handed over for trial in Turkey, but Saudi Arabia refused the request.

    Al Jazeera's Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Ankara, said Turkey has consistently accused Saudi of not cooperating on this issue.

    "The Turkish foreign minister also stated before that the Saudi prosecutor's office has never shared any information about those 11 people who have been arrested," Koseoglu said.

    "This death sentence decision... will most likely not be welcomed by Ankara, because it will mean that Saudi Arabia will prevent those people from talking."

    Koseoglu said if the Saudis proceed with the execution, neither Turkey nor any other country will be able to hear the testimonies of the accused.

    International pressure

    Turkish media have published photographs of members of the crown prince's entourage at the consulate before the slaying.

    In December 2018, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey was working with other countries to carry the investigation into Khashoggi's killing to the UN. 

    The announcement came a month after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres held talks with Cavusoglu over the famed critic's murder. 

    UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric at the time told reporters that the UN had not yet received a formal request from the Turkish side.

    Questions also remain over Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's role in ordering the killing, with several western intelligence agencies alluding that he had knowledge of the operation beforehand.

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    A number of US senators have also questioned Saudi claims that the crown prince was unaware of the killing, which authorities in Riyadh described as an operation undertaken by "rogue elements".

    "You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organised by people under the command of MBS," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters in December.  

    Khashoggi's body, believed to have been dismembered, has not been found.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies