A UN investigator predicted that Saudi Arabia would finally free the convicted murderers of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi after the killers were pardoned by Khashoggi’s sons in a move that she said represented “l ‘absolute impunity’ of the kingdom.
Agnès Callamard, the special rapporteur for extrajudicial executions who said that the 2018 murder was committed at the request of the Saudi state, said Friday that the message of forgiveness represented the “first steps towards their eventual release” under Saudi law and sharia law.
“All of us who, over the past 20 months, have reported on the horrific execution of Jamal Khashoggi and the lack of responsibility for his murder, we expected that,” she said. “The Saudi authorities are playing what they hope to be the final act of their well-repeated travesty of justice before an international community far too ready to be deceived.”
Khashoggi’s son Salah, who lives in Saudi Arabia, posted a statement on Twitter on Friday saying family members had decided to forgive the killers.
“On this very blessed night of this very blessed month [of Ramadan], we remember the word of Almighty God in his holy book: “If you forgive and make reconciliation, the reward is due from God,” he said.
“This is why we, the sons of martyr Jamal Khashoggi, announce that we forgive and forgive those who participated in the murder of our father.”
Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, an ardent advocate for justice for Khashoggi, condemned the statement. In a tweet, she said that “heinous murder has no statute of limitations and no one has the right to forgive his killers.”
A Saudi court ruled in December that five of the convicted murderers – whose names have never been released – would face the death penalty and three others would be sentenced to prison.
Two of the alleged architects of the murder – Saud al-Qahtani, a close advisor to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Ahmed Asiri – were released for lack of evidence. The trial, held in secret, was widely condemned as a sham by international rights activists, who said that the brains behind the murder had not been held accountable.
Callamard, whose 2019 report on the Khashoggi murder concluded that it was a state-sponsored murder, said that Khashoggi’s family was probably pressured to publish the statement.
She said that this undermined a series of measures recently announced by Saudi Arabia which appeared to show that it adopted basic human rights standards, such as the abolition of the death penalty for minors and the end of the practice of flogging.
Callamard said in a Facebook statement that other avenues of justice should be sought. It called on prosecutors and judges in Turkey to hold a trial of the Khashoggi murderers in absentia; for all civil and criminal law avenues in the United States to pursue; and the United States Congress to continue its efforts to declassify the conclusions of the American intelligence agencies which would have believed that Prince Mohammed was responsible for the murders.
She also asked if Saudi Arabia should stay host to this year’s G20, to be held in Riyadh.