A Turkish court on Thursday decided to transfer the trial surrounding the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to authorities in Saudi Arabia. To this end, the prosecutor submitted a request to the Istanbul court last week. The prosecutor made the request because all 26 suspects are living abroad. No statements could be taken from them, nor could any arrests be made. In the lawsuit, 26 Saudi suspects for involvement in the murder of Khashoggi in 2018 are on trial in absentia.
Khashoggi wrote for, among others, The Washington Post critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 to arrange papers for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz. He wouldn’t leave the building alive. Research by various media and intelligence services shows that he was murdered and dismembered in the consulate. The operation is said to have involved a forensic doctor and Saudis who worked for the crown prince.
Human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the eve of the hearing, the Turkish authorities had called on not to hand the case over to Saudi Arabia. According to HRW, Saudi Arabia has so far thwarted any “meaningful accountability” for Khashoggi’s murder. “Let’s not entrust the lamb to the wolf,” Hatice Cengiz’s lawyer said in court, according to international media† Cengiz has announced that it will appeal the court’s decision.
The decision to transfer the lawsuit coincides with efforts from Ankara to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia. The assassination of Khashoggi and subsequent mutual accusations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia seriously deteriorated relations between them. There was even an unofficial boycott of Turkish products in Saudi Arabia, which reduced exports to the Gulf state by 90 percent. Turkey is experiencing economic difficulties and according to Turkish media and analysts, the decision paves the way for improving bilateral relations.