The trial of 20 Saudi nationals accused of killing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has begun in absentia in Turkey.
Jamal Khashoggi, 59, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Those being tried include two former top aides to Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Jamal Khashoggi was a vocal critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia carried out a separate trial over the killing that was heavily criticized as incomplete.
The trial in Istanbul follows an international outcry over the murder, which tarnished the prince’s reputation.
Turkish prosecutors accuse the former deputy head of Saudi intelligence, Ahmed al-Asiri, and the royal court’s media adviser Saud al-Qahtani of having led the operation and instructed a Saudi hit team.
The other 18 defendants are accused of having suffocated Jamal Khashoggi, whose remains have not been found. Turkish officials say his body was dismembered and removed to an unknown site.
Jamal Khashoggi, who was resident in the US, had entered the consulate seeking papers for his impending wedding.
The journalist’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz is attending the trial alongside the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard, who has directly linked the crown prince to the killing, AFP news agency reports.
The Saudi authorities initially denied any involvement in the case, but later called it a “rogue operation”.
In December 2019, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death and three to jail for Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, but the trial was secretive and the defendants were not named.
The CIA and some Western governments believe the murder was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – something he denies. The crown prince is de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.
UN special rapporteur Callamard says Jamal Khashoggi was “the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible”.
At the time of his death Jamal Khashoggi worked for the Washington Post.
The prosecutors have charged Ahmed al-Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani with “instigating the deliberate and monstrous killing, causing torment”.
Hatice Cengiz is hoping that the trial will reveal significant new evidence and finally reveal what happened to Jamal Khashoggi’s remains.