Five people were sentenced to die, another three were given life sentences, and three more were free without conviction, but anger persists over Saudi refusal to hold to account those who ordered journalist’s brutal murder.

A closed court in Saudi Arabia has handed out five death and three life sentences, as well as exonerating three others over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018.

The sentences are the first convictions to be issued in relation with the slaying, but have been criticised by those who investigated the death, including the UN special investigator presiding over the case.

In October 2018, a hit squad made up of Saudi agents asphyxiated the Washington Post columnist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi’s remains are suspected to have been chopped into smaller pieces, then disposed of in a manner that has yet to be revealed.

The Saudi journalist was once a close confidante of the country’s royal family, but became a critic of its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

Leaked recordings, as well as Western intelligence assessments, strongly point to the idea that the prince ordered the abduction and killing, but the Saudi heir only accepts “responsibility” in the sense that a “rogue” team of agents was able to conduct the killing under his watch.

Belying that interpretation of the events is the involvement of Saud al Qahtani, a MBS advisor, who is alleged to have overseen the operation remotely on behalf of the prince.

Qahtani was sanctioned by the US State Department over his role in the killing of Khashoggi, but continues to walk free to this day.

The idea that the hit squad acted without official approval also seems far-fetched given that they arrived and left Istanbul on private jets and there was a clear cover up attempt after news of the murder first broke.

In the days following the killing, Saudi clean up squads came to the consulate and consul Mohammed al Otaibi, who was also sanctioned by the US, gave tours to media outlets in a vain attempt to convince the world that nothing had happened there.

UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard put some of these contradictions to the Saudis in the wake of the verdicts.

In a series of tweets, she wrote:

“Under international human rights law, the killing of Mr. #Khashoggi was an extrajudicial execution for which the State of #SaudiArabia is responsible.  But at no point did the trial considered the responsibilities of the State.

“Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death.  The masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial.  That is the antithesis of Justice. It is a mockery.”

Source: TRT World