MBS Has Underlings He Had Kill Khashoggi for Him Sentenced to Death
And you thought your boss was bad
Saudi Arabia on Monday sentenced five people to death and three to jail over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but a U.N. investigator accused it of making a “mockery” of justice by allowing the masterminds of last year’s killing to go free.
A Saudi court rejected the findings of a U.N. inquiry by ruling that the killing was not premeditated, but carried out “at the spur of the moment”. Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor and spokesman Shalaan al-Shalaan said the court dismissed charges against three of the 11 people tried, finding them not guilty.
A senior official of the Trump administration, which critics say has been too soft on Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi, called the verdicts “an important step” in holding those responsible accountable.
Another senior U.S. official said Washington would go on pressing for full accountability. Khashoggi was a U.S. resident and a critic of the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MbS.
A source familiar with U.S. intelligence assessments said key U.S. government agencies rejected the validity of the court proceedings and CIA experts still believed the crown prince personally ordered, or at least approved of, the killing.
The source said the five men condemned to death were essentially foot soldiers in the killing, while two senior security officials acquitted played a more significant role.
A Saudi prosecutor said there was no evidence connecting one of those senior officials, Saud al-Qahtani, to the killing and the court dismissed charges against Ahmed al-Asiri, a former deputy intelligence chief.
Khashoggi was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, where he had gone to obtain documents for his impending wedding. His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building, and his remains have not been found.
The murder caused a global uproar, tarnishing the crown prince’s image. Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, said they believed he had ordered the killing.
Saudi officials say he had no role, though in September MbS indicated some personal accountability, saying “it happened under my watch”.
‘MOCKERY’ OF JUSTICE
Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur for extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, said the trial verdict was a “mockery” of justice.
“The hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free, they have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial,” she said on Twitter.
Eleven Saudi suspects were put on trial in secretive proceedings in the capital Riyadh. None of their names was immediately released.
“The investigation showed that the killing was not premeditated … The decision was taken at the spur of the moment,” Shalaan said, a position directly contradicting the findings of a United Nations-led investigation.
The U.N.-led inquiry reported in February that the evidence pointed to “a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated” by Saudi officials.
The publisher of the Washington Post, a newspaper for which Khashoggi wrote a column, said the lack of transparency and the Saudi government’s refusal to cooperate with independent investigators suggested “a sham trial”.
“Those ultimately responsible, at the highest level of the Saudi government, continue to escape responsibility for the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Fred Ryan said in a statement.
Human rights group Amnesty International said the verdict was a “whitewash” that failed to address the Saudi authorities’ involvement or the location of Khashoggi’s remains.
However, one of Khashoggi’s sons [The one who lives in Saudi and is MBS’ hostage.] said the verdicts had been fair to his children.
“We affirm our confidence in the Saudi judiciary at all levels, that it has been fair to us and that justice has been achieved,” Salah Khashoggi said on Twitter.
The verdicts can be appealed.