Khashoggi killers spared execution after sons forgave them

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The family of murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi announced Friday that he has forgiven his Saudi assassins, granting a statutory stay to five government officials who were sentenced to death for an operation that threw a suspicion about the crown prince of the kingdom.

“We, the sons of martyr Jamal Khashoggi, announce that we forgive those who killed our father as we seek a reward from Almighty God,” wrote one of his sons, Salah Khashoggi, on Twitter.

Salah Khashoggi, who lives in Saudi Arabia and received financial compensation from the royal court for the murder of his father, explained that pardon had been granted to the killers during the last nights of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in accordance with Islamic tradition to offer pardons to cases authorized by Islamic law.

The announcement was widely expected as the trial in Saudi Arabia left the door open for a stay by deciding in December that the murder was not premeditated. This finding is in line with the government’s official explanation that Khashoggi killed that he had been accidentally killed in a fight by agents who attempted to forcibly return him to Saudi Arabia.

Before his murder, Khashoggi had written a critical article on the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in columns for the Washington Post. He had been living in exile in the United States for about a year while Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman oversaw a crackdown in Saudi Arabia against human rights activists, writers and critics of his devastating war in Yemen.

In October 2017, a team of 15 Saudi agents was sent to Turkey to meet Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for what they thought was an appointment to collect the documents necessary to marry his Turkish fiancé. The group included a forensic scientist, intelligence and security agents, and people who worked for the Crown Prince’s office.

Turkish authorities allege that Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw. The body has not been found. Turkey, Saudi Arabia’s rival, apparently got the Saudi consulate bug and shared the audio of the murder with the CIA, among others.

Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal KhashoggiAP

The gruesome murder, which took place while his Turkish fiance was waiting outside the building, drew international condemnation from Prince Mohammed.

The 34-year-old prince, who has the support of his father King Salman, denies any involvement. American intelligence agencies say, however, that an operation like this could not have happened without his knowledge and that the Senate blamed the crown prince for the murder.

After initially offering changing accounts of what happened, and under intense international and Turkish pressure, Saudi prosecutors finally accepted the explanation that Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents during an operation organized by two of the principal assistants to the crown prince at the time. Neither was found guilty at trial, however.

In addition to the five sentenced to death, the Saudi trial concluded last year that three other people had been found guilty of concealing the crime and sentenced to 24 years in prison. A total of 11 people were tried in Saudi Arabia for the murder.

Saudi media Arab News sought to clarify on Friday that the announcement made by Khashoggi’s sons could spare those convicted of the execution, but that does not mean they will go unpunished.

In an interview in September with “60 minutes” from CBS, Prince Mohammed said he assumed “full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia”. But he insisted that he had no knowledge of the operation, saying that he could not closely monitor the millions of workers in the country.

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