On Thursday, the halt of the trial in absentia of Saudi suspects over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and its transfer to Saudi authorities, was requested by a Turkish prosecutor.
The court stated that it would ask for the Justice Ministry’s opinion on the request, setting the next hearing for April 7.
No progress has been made for almost two years as an Istanbul court put 26 Saudis on trial in absentia. Those on trial include two close to the Kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
Due to Saudi Arabia’s failure to cooperate because “they preferred to stay away from the issue completely instead of cooperating,” the legal process was stalled, according to Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz.
While carried out behind closed doors, Saudi Arabia has always insisted that its legal process has been completed and there is no need for further arrests.
Eight people were jailed by a Saudi court in 2020 for between seven and 20 years over the killing in a trial critics said lacked transparency. None of the defendants was named.
The Turkish court asked the Justice Ministry in November to send a letter to Riyadh asking about those who had been sentenced in the Kingdom to avoid the risk of them being punished twice, following the Saudi trial.
Saudi authorities responded by asking for the case to be transferred to them and for the so-called red notices against the defendants to be lifted, the Turkish prosecutor said.
The prosecutor further stated that Riyadh also pledged to evaluate the accusations against the 26 defendants if the case was transferred.
The request should be accepted, the prosecutor added, because the defendants were foreign citizens. Furthermore, the arrest warrants and red notices could not be executed and their statements could not be taken, leaving the case in abeyance or suspension.
Already rocky relations between the two regional powers and rivals, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, worsened due to the 2018 killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
With Western intelligence agencies accusing MBS of authorizing the killing, the assassination sparked international outrage that continues to reverberate.