RIYADH: A Saudi court verdict exonerating the crown prince’s top aides over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been condemned globally as a travesty of justice, but won the backing of key ally Washington.
Five unnamed people were sentenced to death on Monday while three others were handed jail terms totalling 24 years over the killing of the Washington Post columnist last year at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.
The verdict underscores Saudi efforts to turn the page on one of its worst ever diplomatic crises, which tarnished powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s global reputation and sparked intense scrutiny of the kingdom’s human rights record.
However, the case is likely to remain a headache for Saudi Arabia as it gears up for next year’s G20 summit in Riyadh.
A US State Department official hailed the verdict as “an important step” in holding the perpetrators accountable.
“We’re pressing them for more transparency and for holding everybody accountable,” the official added.
But it was lambasted by Turkey, which called it a “scandalous” outcome that had granted “impunity” to those who had dispatched the killers — apparently a veiled reference to Prince Mohammed.
The European Union also reiterated the need to ensure “accountability and prosecution of all those responsible”.
Riyadh has described the murder as a “rogue” operation that did not involve the crown prince.
But both the CIA and United Nations special envoy Agnes Callamard have directly linked Prince Mohammed to the killing, a charge the kingdom vehemently denies.