Salah Khashoggi tweeted a statement forgiving his murderers, while human rights activists accuse the Saudi government of trying to shutter the case.
The son of murdered Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, has released a statement ‘forgiving’ his killers.
An outspoken critic of the Saudi monarchy, particularly of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), the elder Khashoggi fled to the US in a self-imposed exile fearing for his life.
His murder, which took place inside the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018, caused widespread outcry, and led to MBS becoming an international pariah.
While Saudi officials maintained that the killing and subsequent dismemberment of his body was a "rogue operation", the state has still tried to brush the event under the carpet.
#SaudiArabia had repeatedly proven it will not deliver justice for #JamalKhashoggi. This is the last piece to the Saudi impunity puzzle, the final act of the parody of justice played in front of a global audience. The killers will walk free. Exonerated. https://t.co/X74VAydkDj— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) May 22, 2020
Speaking to TRT World, Gulf analyst Giorgio Cafiero expressed scepticism about the statement released by Khashoggi’s son, Salah, on Friday morning.
“We must assume that the family members of Jamal Khashoggi were under much pressure from Saudi officials to make this move. It is doubtful that they had much choice in this pardon,” he said.
There had been reports that Salah Khashoggi, who is a dual US-Saudi citizen, was barred from leaving the Kingdom in the aftermath of his father’s death, along with other family members, some of whom are US residents.
“In practice, Khashoggi’s killers will not be subject to the death penalty. By exonerating the killers, it is clear that this whole situation remains nothing but a total travesty of justice” Cafiero added.
In 2019, there were reports that the Khashoggi family’s silence had been bought with offers of life-changing amounts of money.
The Washington Post claimed that some US-residing family members had received million-dollar homes and monthly stipends of $10,000 as part of a long term settlement.
Khashoggi's fiancee, Hatice Cengiz responded to Salah’s message on Twitter saying that "no one has the right to pardon his killers" adding that the fight to bring the perpetrators to justice is far from over.
Jamal Khashoggi has become an international symbol bigger than any of us, admired and loved. His ambush and heinous murder does not have a statue of limitations and no one has the right to pardon his killers.— Hatice Cengiz / خديجة (@mercan_resifi) May 22, 2020
I and others will not stop until we get #JusticeForJamal (1/2) pic.twitter.com/hX0kFRPNvr
The head of the UK-based Saudi rights group ALQST, Yahya Assiri, believes the statement is part of a ploy to help the Saudi government shirk responsibility over the murder.
"The murder of Jamal Khashoggi is not a family case, it is not a mistake in a normal context!" he tweeted. "The authorities killed him because of his political work. His case is political.”
Assiri added that Saudi authorities are “trying to close the case on their part without condemning anyone”, a move which further distances them from having to take any responsibility for the murder. The statement released by Khashoggi’s son goes some way in achieving this aim, he argued.
In a podcast earlier this year, US exile Abdullah al-Ouda, the son of the imprisoned Islamic scholar, Salman al-Ouda, said that Saudi authorities would likely turn to pressuring family members in the hope that they give up on seeking retribution, bringing about an end to the matter.
“If one of the family decides to give up retribution, the idea of retribution has completely ended, this is the concept of retribution, and I think they will choose retribution for this reason,” said al-Ouda presciently in April.
Echoing the sentiments of al-Ouda, the Belgian-Egyptian writer Khaled Diab said on Twitter: “Forgiveness and justice are not the same thing. Whether or not Jamal Khashoggi's son's forgiveness is genuine or was coerced out of him, not only his killers must face justice, but also those who ordered the murder.”
None of these actions are likely to play out very well for the Saudis in the international court of public opinion, where they are likely to be accused of shifting state culpability.
The UN, the CIA and the Turkish authorities have stated that MBS was behind the murder of the journalist.