Jamal Khashoggi killers avoid execution as widely criticised Saudi Arabia trial wraps up

Five people have been spared execution by a Saudi Arabian court for the murder of journalist and regime critic Jamal Khashoggi, after his family said they did not want the death penalty.

The 59-year-old columnist for the Washington Post was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018 after writing articles critical of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Now the Riyadh Criminal court has handed down rulings for eight Saudi nationals implicated in the killing — with five due to serve a maximum sentence of 20 years after the family of the slain journalist asked for their death penalties to be commuted.

Three more saw their sentences — spanning between seven and ten years — upheld by the court.

The nation’s state television aired few details about the final verdicts, and did not make public the names of those sentenced.

The trial has been criticised by human rights organisations and an independent UN investigator, who noted that no senior officials, nor those suspected of having orchestrated the killing, had been found guilty.

«Under international human rights law, the killing of Mr Khashoggi was an extrajudicial execution for which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should be held responsible,» the UN’s Agnes Callamard  said.

«This case demands an investigation into the chain of command to identify the masterminds, as well as those who incited, allowed or turned a blind eye to the murder, such as the Crown Prince,»

At the time of his killing Khashoggi had been living in exile in the US amid a crackdown in his home country on human rights activists, writers and critics  of the region’s military involvement in Yemen.

A forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers and individuals who worked for the crown prince’s office have all been implicated in the killing — however the crown prince himself ahas denied any knowledge of the operation.

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