LONDON (Reuters) – A Saudi royal counselor who was fired over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is not among the 11 suspects in trial by secret hearings in Riyadh despite Saudi promises to bring those responsible to justice, sources there. is familiar with the matter.
An Indonesian journalist holds a poster during a protest over the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in front of the embassy in Saudi Arabia in Indonesia on October 19, 2018. REUTERS / Beawiharta
The Saudi prosecutor accused 11 unnamed suspect in November including five who could face the death penalty for "ordering and committing the crime." The CIA and some Western countries believe that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing denied by Saudi officials.
Saud al-Qahtani, a top ruler of Prince Mohammed until he was fired and then sanctioned by the US Treasury over his suspected role, is not trial and has not acted on any of the four court hearings that have been called since January , and said seven sources familiar with the case but did not participate in the trial.
Two regional intelligence sources told Reuters weeks after the murder that Qahtani is monitoring Khashoggi's murder and dismemberment by giving orders via Skype to a team of security and intelligence operations.
The Saudi prosecutor said in November that Qahtani had coordinated with the Deputy Minister Ahmed al-Asiri, who ordered the repatriation of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who had become a vocal critic of the Crown Prince's policy over the years. insider.
The prosecutor said that Qahtani had met the operations accused of Khashoggi's repatriation prior to their journey to Istanbul. When Khashoggi resisted, the chief negotiator decided to kill him, according to the prosecutor.
Asiri is on trial, the seven sources told Reuters.
Three of the sources said that Maher Mutreb, the main dealer and Salah al-Tubaigy, a forensic expert specializing in autopsy, is also under trial and may face the death penalty.
The sources said that the defendants have legal advice and have defended themselves in court by claiming that they did not intend to kill Khashoggi or simply execute orders.
The public prosecutor, the government media office, Qahtani and Asiri did not respond to requests for comment on the trial. Reuters could not reach Mutreb, Tobaigy or any of the defendants.
Saudi Arabia wants to move on from the global outbreak that was killed by Khashoggi's killing in the consulate of Istanbul in October last year, despising the reputation of the crown prince, causing some investors to withdraw and intensify criticism of the country's human rights record.
A credible investigation and trial is among Western demands to restore Saudi Arabia's post-murder. But Riyadh has refused to cooperate with an U.N. study and rejects it as an interference in his internal affairs.
It is unclear which evidence, if any, has been presented in court. Khashoggi's remains have not been discovered, and Riyadh says it has not received evidence requested by Ankara that it has recordings related to the killing, where Qahtani is prominent.
A senior Turkish official said that Ankara had attended all the necessary information with Saudi Arabia, but that the cooperation had not been reciprocated. Turkey wants Riyadh to answer questions including where Khashoggi is body and who Saudi's standing trial in Riyadh is.
Three of the sources said that a representative of the Khashoggi family attended at least one session to request an update of the prosecutor's inquiry into Qahtani and for him to be brought before the court.
Qahtani has continued to influence the Crown Prince's inner circle and remains active on behalf of the royal courts, western, Arab and Saudi sources with links to the royal court told Reuters in January.
A Saudi official denied it at the time and said that Qahtani is still under investigation and forbidden to travel.
Access to the trial is limited to diplomats from the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Turkey, who are summoned at short notice and excluded from bringing interpreters.
Editing Nick Tattersall