On the Christmas Eve, last year a Saudi court verdict exonerating the crown prince's top aides over the murder of Saudi born journalist Jamal Khashoggi and has been globally condemned as a travesty of justice.
While in exile in United States, Khashoggi was a regular contributor to an influential American newspaper the Washington Post, the daily writes that the verdict is exactly what impunity looks like in Saudi Arabia, and it must be denounced, especially those who cares about freedom of the press.
The world Not surprised, the five unnamed Saudis were sentenced to death and three others were awarded various prison terms over the killing of the Washington Post columnist in 2018 at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. It was unclear who was sentenced to death.
He was strangled and dismembered by a 15-member Saudi death squad inside the consulate, according to Turkish officials. His body have not been found despite intense forensic searches.
What is also not a surprise that the top aides of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's directly in the conspiracy to the worst diplomatic crimes were given royal impunity.
The murder which plunged the Turkey and Saudi Arabia into diplomatic crisis, which undermines Salman's global reputation and sparked intense scrutiny of the kingdom's human rights record.
However, the murder and mysterious trial is likely to cause hiccups for Saudi Arabia as it gears up for this year's Group of 20 - G20 summit in Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia. Turkey obviously criticised the sham trial and called it a "scandalous" outcome that had granted "impunity" to those who had dispatched the killers - apparently a pointing fingers to the crown prince.
But the U.S. State Department praised the verdict as "an important step" in holding the perpetrators accountable.The European Union reiterated the need to ensure "accountability and prosecution of all those responsible."Nevertheless, Riyadh described the murder as a "rogue" operation and obviously exonerated the crown prince for any conspiracy leading to the death of Khashoggi .
Earlier both the Central Intelligence Agency - CIA and United Nations special envoy Agnes Callamard have directly linked Prince Salma to the killing, a charge the kingdom vehemently denies.Callamard of course called the verdict a "mockery," which she expressed on her Twitter: "Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial."
Why the self-exiled Saudi born journalist who was once a close ally of crown prince become number one state enemy? Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Saudi was an establishment insider-turned-critic.In a trial held in camera in an Riyad, the Saudi prosecutors said deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri oversaw Khashoggi's killing.
The sham trial of 11 suspects accused for the murder defended themselves in court by saying they were carrying out al-Assiri's orders, describing him as the "ringleader" of the operation. Several aides who have been acquitted in the murder of Khashoggi and their name were deliberately dropped from the accuse lists will remain behind the curtain. Those aides who travelled to Istanbul will never be seen in public accompanying the crown prince for months to come to avoid global media outcry.
Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellow (USA) and Hellman-Hammett Award. He can be reached at [email protected]