May 23, 2020

Khashoggi murder case ‘political, not personal’ – Saudi activists


AGENCIES | Aljazeera | Many leading Saudi activists have stressed that slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder remains a political issue, despite alleged efforts by authorities in the kingdom to reduce it to a familial one.

Khashoggi, a well-known journalist in the Arab world who also wrote opinion pieces for The Washington Post, was killed in October 2018 after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents to marry his Turkish fiance.

His body was dismembered and never recovered.

The remarks by the Saudi activists came after Khashoggi’s son Salah posted a brief statement on Twitter earlier on Friday, saying his family has pardoned those responsible for his father’s murder.

“In this blessed night of the blessed month [of Ramadan], we remember God’s saying: If a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah,” he posted.

“Therefore, we the sons of the Martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce that we pardon those who killed our father, seeking reward God almighty.”

However, Khashoggi’s Turkish fiance, Hatice Cengiz, renounced the statement, saying “no one has the right to pardon the killers” and that she will not stop until justice is done.

It was a sentiment also shared by many Saudi activists, who said they view Khashoggi’s killing as a political rather than a personal issue.

“The murder of Jamal Khashoggi is not a family case, it is not a mistake in a normal context,” said Yahya Assiri, the head of the United Kingdom-based Saudi rights group, ALQST.

“The authorities killed him because of his political work,” Assiri said. “His case is political, so keep silent.”

Assiri shared a statement signed by at last two dozen Saudi activists and dissidents in December last year, rejecting the Saudi legal proceedings in the Khashoggi murder case.

“We categorically reject the Saudi trial in the Khashoggi case and its resulting judgments,” said the statement. 

“The trial is unfair, the Saudi judiciary is corrupt and not independent, and the main suspect in the case is the Saudi Crown Prince, who controls the conduct of the trials.”

The signatories in the statement said they condemned Saudi authorities using the late journalist’s family members to “whitewash the country’s judiciary, … dwarfing Khashoggi’s case”.

It said Khashoggi’s family or some of its members did not have their full freedom to say what they wanted.

“[The] fact is that the issue does not concern Jamal Khashoggi’s family only, but rather is an issue of public opinion as Khashoggi was a political writer who criticised the political system and was killed for that.”

Omaima al-Najjar, a Saudi activist, said it was imperative to continue pushing for Khashoggi’s case as one framed within freedom of speech. It would remain in the public eye for several reasons, she said.

“What we intend to do is continue to flag the case as a fight for freedom of speech and call for an independent transparent trial carried by international laws and not by Sharia laws that enable a murder case to escape penalty through a pardon or blood money,” al-Najjar told Al Jazeera.

“There was never closure of the case since the body was never found,” she said.

“The Turkish authorities are also still keeping records of the audio of the killing – which is described by the UN as chilling and graphic – that they could leak at any time.”

Al-Najjar accused the Saudi authorities of trying to find ways to spare the lives of those who committed the crime.

“There have been ongoing trials of the case where international observers are allowed to attend but without translators. The trial has been a complete joke and I would describe it as a theatre.”

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