Five men have been sentenced to death and another three face years in prison for their roles in the gruesome murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year, the Saudi public prosecutor’s office has said.
All 14 people on trial were found guilty of the killing, which triggered the kingdom’s biggest diplomatic crisis since the 9 / attacks as world leaders and business executives sought to distance themselves from Riyadh.
However, Saudi state television also reported the Saudi attorney general’s investigation showed that the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s former top adviser, Saud al-Qahtani, had no proven involvement in the killing, after being investigated and released without charge.
Al-Qahtani has been sanctioned by the US for his alleged role in the operation.
The court also ruled that the Saudi consul-general in Istanbul at the time, Mohammed al-Otaibi, was not guilty. He was released from prison after the verdicts were announced.
The murder of Khashoggi sullied the reputation of the newly appointed crown prince, whom the CIA connected directly ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, according to a report in the Washington Post.
Prince Mohammed has attempted to portray himself as a liberal reformer of the conservative country. The Saudi government denies the prince had knowledge of what it says was a rogue operation. The prince himself told US television in September that he took “full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia”.
After holding nine sessions, the trial concluded that there was no previous intent by those found guilty to murder.
All defendants may appeal against the verdicts, the deputy public prosecutor, Shalaan bin Rajih Shalaal, said.