Twenty Saudi nationals are on trial in absentia in Turkey for the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, including two former aides of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Ahmed al-Asiri, the former deputy head of Saudi Arabia's general intelligence, and Saud al-Qahtani, an ex-royal court adviser, are charged with instigating "premeditated murder with monstrous intent," alongside 18 others who could be sentenced to life in prison, reports the Guardian. Saudi Arabia has refused Turkey's calls that the suspects return to face trial. The country held its own secretive trial, concluding the Washington Post columnist was killed by rogue agents during what should have been a repatriation mission. Al-Asiri and al-Qahtani were acquitted. Five suspects were sentenced to death but have since been pardoned by Khashoggi's family.
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, called the Saudi trial a mockery of justice and implicated the crown prince. She was present alongside Khashoggi's fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, as the trial kicked off Friday with consulate employees saying they were told not to come to work on the day of the killing, per the Washington Post. Both women hope the trial will reveal the full circumstances around Khashoggi's death and perhaps point to his undiscovered remains, per the Guardian. However, Turkish prosecutors believe Khashoggi—a fierce critic of bin Salman—was strangled inside the consulate before his body was dismembered with a bone saw and dissolved in acid on the premises. Per CBS News, they say the suspects had the goal of "taking the victim back to Saudi Arabia and of killing him if he did not agree." (Read more Jamal Khashoggi stories.)