One year after Saudi critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal killing, the question dominating his memorial event was: why justice remained elusive. At memorial for journalist, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos tells grieving fiancee she is not alone.

Hatice Cengiz (L), fiancee of the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, embrace each other as they attend a ceremony marking the first anniversary of Khashoggi's killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Hatice Cengiz (L), fiancee of the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, embrace each other as they attend a ceremony marking the first anniversary of Khashoggi's killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. (Reuters)

Slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was remembered and his outspoken nature lauded at a memorial held in Istanbul one year after his brutal murder.

Khashoggi’s friends, prominent journalists, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, rights activists, his fiancee Hatice Cengiz and the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings gathered in front of the Saudi Consulate building in Istanbul on Wednesday.

The Washington Post columnist was killed in the kingdom's diplomatic mission on October 2, 2018 after he went for paperwork for his impending marriage to the Turkish Cengiz. Although Saudi Arabia initially denied he was even inside the consulate, the kingdom later acknowledged his killing.

One year on, Turkey is still investigating and demanding clarity from Saudi authorities on where his body was and who had authorised the operation.

Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told US broadcaster CBS in September that while he had "absolutely not" ordered Khashoggi's killing, he bore responsibility as it happened under his watch.

The memorial began at 1014 GMT, the exact time when Khashoggi had entered the Saudi mission.

Middle East Eye editor and friend David Hearst started Wednesday's ceremonies with a call for a moment of silence.

In a very short speech, Bezos dubbed the murder "unimaginable,” saying, "You [Hatice Cengiz] need to know you are in our hearts. We are here and you are not alone."

At the event, UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard called out the world for its failure to take follow-up action on Khashoggi's murder. 

On Twitter on Tuesday, she said MBS implicitly recognised Khashoggi's death as a "state killing."

"It happened under his watch as quasi head of state. The state is therefore implicated as he is," Callamard said.

"How meaningless it is for the Saudi authorities to take claims of admissions of responsibility when they stand in the way of genuine justice ... [and] continue to intensify the crackdown on human right defenders." Andrew Gardner, a senior Turkey researcher at Amnesty International, said at the event.

"Unfortunately in our region today, there are murders that have gone beyond count ... in fact, Jamal Khashoggi's murder has reminded us of other murders and become a symbol," Yasin Aktay, a Turkish presidential adviser, said, referring to killings by the Syrian regime and other autocracies. 

Reporters without Borders (RSF) representative Erol Onderoglu and Yemeni peace prize winner Tawakkol Karman also spoke at the memorial.

Saudi denial

Saudi Arabia initially denied any knowledge of his whereabouts after Khashoggi went missing but later attempted to blame his death on a team of rogue operatives carrying out a botched rendition operation.

According to reports by the UN and other independent organisations, Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered. 

Callamard criticised the crown prince also for tolerating one year of "disinformation" and "policies of intolerance and repression."

Underlining that Salman tries to "distance" himself from the killing, she said, "The identity of the killers and planners point to a far closer relationship between them and him than he is prepared to admit."

"The operation could not have been implemented with such flagrant confidence, resourcing and then — to this day impunity—  without state sanction at the highest level," she said on Tuesday.

Executed journalists worldwide

One year after the killing of Khashoggi, Callamard also commemorated executed journalists worldwide.

She referred to the journalists who were executed for their works "denouncing repression," including Pablo Media Velazquez from Praguay, Deyda Hydara from Gambia, Anna Politkovskaya murdered in Russia and Daphne Caruana Galizia from Malta.

Callamard stressed the importance of the obligation of investigating and responding to the threats journalists face around the world.

Murder of Khashoggi

Khashoggi, a Saudi national and columnist for The Washington Post, was murdered brutally on October 2, 2018 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

After weeks of denying involvement, the kingdom admitted later that Khashoggi had been killed at the consulate but claimed that the Saudi royal family had no prior knowledge of a plot to murder him.

Over the past year, information has even surfaced in pieces the way he was killed. 

But the world is still awaiting information and an official announcement about the whereabouts of his remains.

A report prepared by Callamard highlighted the circumstances in which Khashoggi was killed.

The report described it as a case of enforced disappearance and called on Saudi authorities to help in investigations, as the country was a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture. Saudi Arabia had ratified the Convention in 1997.

A joint Saudi-Turkish task force was formed to investigate the disappearance of Khashoggi, following a 75-minute meeting between the Saudi attorney general and Istanbul chief public prosecutor. 

Saudi authorities agreed to allow Turk investigators to search the consulate building.

While Turkish authorities were not allowed access to some parts of the building, investigators used robotic cameras to inspect the surrounding sewage network, in an effort to locate remains.

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation into the allegations that Khashoggi was killed by a 15-member hit squad, occupying high offices in security and intelligence in Saudi Arabia. They included a security officer, an intelligence officer and a forensic science expert.

In a written statement, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office reported that Khashoggi was strangled and his body was dismembered.

Eleven Saudi suspects have been put on trial in secretive proceedings but only a few hearings have been held. A UN report has called for Salman and other senior Saudi officials to be investigated.

The CIA and some Western governments have said they believe the prince ordered the operation, an assertion Saudi officials have repeatedly denied.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies