A court in Turkey has transferred the trial over Jamal Khashoggi's murder to Saudi Arabia, which is unlikely to even hear it, wiping away hopes from some human rights advocates that justice can finally be achieved for the journalist who was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. A panel of judges announced the decision Thursday amid President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's push to improve relations with Saudi Arabia and despite the objections of Khashoggi's Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz. "Let's not entrust the lamb to the wolf," Ali Ceylan, a lawyer for Cengiz, told the court before the decision was made, per the New York Times. He noted Erdogan himself once said justice did not exist in Saudi Arabia.
But Erdogan, hoping to restore Turkey's economy and his influence in the Middle East, is eager to please Saudi Arabia at the moment. And according to the Wall Street Journal, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has demanded that he never speak of the murder again. Turkey's justice minister last week backed the prosecutor's request that the trial be transferred to Saudi Arabia as the kingdom refused to extradite the 26 Saudi defendants and only those who have testified can be convicted under Turkish law. But many hoped the largely symbolic trial would unveil more evidence of who was involved. A 2019 trial in Saudi Arabia painted the murder as occurring during a rogue operation, rather than with bin Salman's blessing. Eight unnamed low-level officials were ultimately handed prison terms.
Higher-ups, including two of bin Salman's former aides, were among those to have been tried in absentia in Turkey. "In the same way Saudi Arabia covered up the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Turkey is now covering up its own investigation and its findings," says Agnes Callamard, a former UN special rapporteur who investigated the killing, per the Journal. It's "cowardice and denial of justice." In backing the transfer, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said officials would wait for the outcome of a new Saudi trial before dropping the case, per the Times. However, Saudi officials view the 2019 trial as final. Regardless, Khashoggi's fiancee has vowed to continue fighting for justice. "We all know who is guilty of Jamal's murder," says Cengiz, who previously sued the crown prince in US court. (Read more Jamal Khashoggi stories.)