ISTANBUL: A Turkish prosecutor asked a court on Thursday (Mar 31) to halt the trial in absentia of 26 Saudi suspects over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and transfer the case to Saudi authorities.
The court said it would ask for the Justice Ministry's opinion on the request and set the next hearing for Apr 7.
Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2, 2018. Turkish officials believe his body was dismembered and removed. His remains have not been found.
In September 2020, a Saudi court jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years over the killing in a trial critics said lacked transparency. None of the defendants was named.
Following the Saudi trial, 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.
The Turkish prosecutor said Saudi authorities responded by asking for the case be transferred to them and for the so-called red notices against the defendants to be lifted.
Riyadh also pledged to evaluate the accusations against the 26 defendants if the case was transferred, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor said the request should be accepted because the defendants were foreign citizens, the arrest warrants and red notices could not be executed and their statements could not be taken, leaving the case in abeyance or suspension.
A US intelligence report released a year ago said Prince Mohammed had approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi. The Saudi government has denied any involvement by the crown prince and rejected the report's findings.
The crown prince told The Atlantic monthly in an article published this month that he felt his own rights had been violated by the accusations against him as any person should be considered innocent until proven guilty.