The fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi has told a Turkish court the Washington Post columnist was lured to his death at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul through “a great betrayal and deception”, and has asked that all people responsible for his killing be brought to justice.
Hatice Cengiz spoke at the opening of the trial on Friday in absentia of two former aides of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and 18 other Saudi nationals who were charged in Turkey for Khashoggi’s grisly slaying.
The journalist’s 2018 killing at the consulate sparked international condemnation and cast a cloud of suspicion over the crown prince.
The 20 Saudi defendants all left Turkey, and Saudi Arabia rejected Turkish demands for their extradition.
Some of the men were put on trial in Riyadh behind closed doors. The proceedings were widely criticised as a whitewash. Khashoggi’s family members later announced they had forgiven his killers.
The trial in Turkey is being closely watched for possible new information or evidence from the killing, including the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s remains.
‘Great betrayal and deception’
Khashoggi, who was a US resident, had walked into his country’s consulate on October 2, 2018, for an appointment to collect documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancee. He never walked out.
Cengiz, who took the stand to testify, spoke of the day she had her future taken away, Turkish state broadcaster TRT reported.
“He was called to that consulate with great betrayal and deception,” the private DHA news agency quoted Cengiz as telling the court during her testimony.
“I am making a complaint about everyone at the consulate. Everyone from the driver to the tea-maker,” said Cengiz, who waited for Khashoggi outside the Istanbul consulate when he went there to obtain the documents and alerted authorities when he failed to come out.
In brief comments after the hearing, she described Khashoggi as a friend, co-worker, ally and companion for many people, not just for her.
“The process was quite emotionally debilitating for me,” she said, but promised to “continue to closely follow the trial because it is our responsibility”, and expressed faith in the Turkish judicial process.
Her lawyer confirmed to DPA news agency the next hearing would be held on November 24.
First pubic trial
While Riyadh refused to extradite the suspects for the proceeding, its importance was underscored by the fact that it is the first public trial into Khashoggi’s killing.
“This is the first time that the judicial system is finally confronting its responsibilities and is speaking to Jamal Khashoggi and to his murder and to the witnesses and to the victims in a way that is internationally recognisable,” said Agnes Callamard, the United Nations’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who attended the hearing.
Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu reporting from Istanbul said this is the first transparent trial where access to testimonies of the witnesses is available, unlike the Saudi trial, which took place behind closed doors.
Saudi Arabia repeatedly said Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue operation” and denied reports that the crown prince was involved.
MBS has said he did not order the killing, but took “full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia”.
The Istanbul trial “represents the best hope for justice” for Khashoggi “following a blatant miscarriage of justice in the Saudi courts”, said Erol Onderoglu, Turkey representative for media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
Calls for a ‘greater international presence’
Following the hearing on Friday, Callamard told media that an international presence, including representatives of foreign states such as the US is needed.
“I call on them to ensure that in the next session in November that there is a far greater international presence so we continue to deliver that message to Saudi Arabia and to the rest of the world that you cannot get away with killing a journalist,” Callamard said.
“Let’s not forget that this is a state execution … This is why the presence of other states, of other members of the international community is important.”
Al Jazeera’s Koseoglu said according to legal experts, if the prosecutors are not able to find any concrete evidence despite the information they have gathered, it would be impossible to indict someone.
“That’s why [Calamard] said that the US should be more involved because the US is the only party that can prove evidence that MBS was involved in Khashoggi’s murder,” Koseoglu said.