The sons of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said Friday they ‘forgive’ the killers of their father, an announcement analysts said effectively grants clemency to five convicted people on death row.
Khashoggi – a royal family insider turned critic – was killed and dismembered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, in a case that tarnished the reputation of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
His family’s pardon could spare the lives of five unnamed people sentenced to death over the murder in a December court ruling that exonerated two top aides to the crown prince.
‘We the sons of martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce we forgive and pardon those who killed our father,’ the Washington Post columnist’s son Salah Khashoggi announced on Twitter.
Saudi authorities did not immediately comment on the legal ramifications of the announcement from Salah, who resides in the kingdom and has denied reports of a financial settlement with the government.
The CIA said it believed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing following critical pieces written by Khashoggi about the Saudi regime.
The tweet posted in Arabic said: ‘In this blessed night of the blessed month (of Ramadan) we remember God’s saying: ‘If a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah.
‘Therefore we the sons of the martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce we pardon and forgive those who killed our father, seeking reward God almighty.’
Jamal Khashoggi attending a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama in 2014. He was brutally killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018
We the sons of martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce we forgive and pardon those who killed our father,’ Salah, right, and Abdullah Khashoggi, left in 2018, said on Twitter
The tweet posted in Arabic said: ‘In this blessed night of the blessed month (of Ramadan) we remember God’s saying: ‘If a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah.’ ‘Therefore we the sons of the martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce we pardon and forgive those who killed our father, seeking reward God almighty.’
‘What this essentially means is that the killers will avoid capital punishment since that is a right the family (under sharia law) has to forgive,’ Ali Shihabi, a Saudi author and analyst close to the government said on Twitter.
‘Other legal procedures by the state continue.’
Analyst Nabeel Nowairah also said the family’s declaration effectively means the ‘murderers will not be executed’.
Salah has previously said he had ‘full confidence’ in the judicial system, and criticized opponents he said were seeking to exploit the case.
Khashoggi was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, where he had gone to obtain documents for his impending wedding to his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz.
His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building, and his remains have not been found.
Shortly after his death Khashoggi’s two sons made an emotional appeal to have their father’s body returned home during a sit-down with CNN.
‘I really hope that whatever happened wasn’t painful for him, or it was quick. Or he had a peaceful death,’ Abdullah Khashoggi said.
The Washington Post reported last year that Khashoggi’s children, including Salah, had received multimillion-dollar homes and were being paid thousands of dollars per month by authorities.
Salah rejected the report, denying discussing a financial settlement with the Saudi government.
Salah Khashoggi, left, shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a meeting in October 2018 to discuss compensation for his father’s murder
Khashoggi is pictured entering the Saudi embassy in Turkey on October 2 2018
Eldest son, Salah Khashoggi with his father Jamal in an undated photo
The murder caused a global uproar, tarnishing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s image. Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, said they believed he had ordered the killing.
Saudi officials say he had no role, though in September 2019 MbS indicated some personal accountability, saying ‘it happened under my watch’.
Out of 11 individuals indicted in the case – most of whom remain unnamed – five were sentenced to death, three face jail terms totaling 24 years and the others were acquitted, according to the public prosecutor.
The December verdict, which was lambasted by rights groups as a travesty of justice, underscored Saudi efforts to draw a line under the crisis as it seeks to reboot its international image ahead of this year’s G20 summit in Riyadh.
The murder involved 15 Saudi agents sent from Riyadh, Ankara said.
Riyadh has described the murder as a ‘rogue’ operation, but both the CIA and a United Nations special envoy have directly linked Prince Mohammed to the killing, a charge the kingdom vehemently denies.
Khashoggi was hacked to pieces at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. The CIA said it believed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered his killing following critical pieces written by Khashoggi about the Saudi regime.
The suspects were put on trial in secretive proceedings in the capital Riyadh.
The trials were condemned by the United Nations and rights groups.
U.N. special rapporteur for extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, accused Saudi Arabia of making a ‘mockery’ of justice by allowing the masterminds of the 2018 killing to go free.
However, Salah Khashoggi said of the December verdict that ‘it has been fair to us and that justice has been achieved.’
Saudi prosecutors had said deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri oversaw Khashoggi’s killing and the US Treasury had claimed the royal court’s media czar Saud al-Qahtani was ‘part of the planning and execution’ of the operation that led to the murder.
Qahtani was investigated but not indicted ‘due to insufficient evidence’ and Assiri was charged, but eventually acquitted on the same grounds, according to the public prosecutor.
Both aides were part of Prince Mohammed’s tight-knit inner circle and were formally sacked over the killing, but only Assiri appeared in the court hearings, according to Western sources.