Turkey charges 20 Saudis over Khashoggi murder, Middle East News & Top Stories

Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul

Following an investigation of more than a year into the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018, Turkey announced on Wednesday March 25 that it has launched proceedings against 20 Saudi nationals, including two close to the prince heir Mohammed ben Salmane.

In a statement to Reuters, Agnes Callamard, the United Nations rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, urged USA authorities to release their findings on responsibility for Khashoggi's death, "including the responsibility of Saudi Arabia crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman".

The prosecutor said the suspects were in agreement to bring Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, and kill him if he refused to go.

An indictment from the Istanbul chief public prosecutor's office accuses ex-deputy chief of the Saudi intelligence service, Ahmed al-Asiri, and Saud al-Qahtani, a former close adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, of "instigating premeditated murder with monstrous intent". The remains of the 59-year-old editorialist's body have never been found.

The killing shone a light on the extraordinary crackdown on dissent carried out by Saudi authorities under Mohammed's leadership and soured relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

But a Saudi prosecutor said there was no evidence connecting Qahtani to the killing and the court dismissed charges against Asiri.

Turkey meanwhile is a key backer of Qatar, especially after a Riyadh-led economic blockade began against the Gulf state in 2017, and is accused of supporting groups including the Muslim Brotherhood.

The latter announcement appeared to be a sign that the Turkish government could still indict bin Salman who has been accused of ordering the killing.

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"This happened in my country, how am I not going to follow up on that?"

In addition to Assiri and Qahtani, Istanbul prosecutors charged 18 other men in the killing, after investigators collected evidence from surveillance footage, phone logs and Khashoggi's laptop and cellphones, the statement said.

The 18 were charged with "deliberately and monstrously killing, causing torment" and face life in jail if convicted.

Mutreb, Tubaigy and Balawi had been among 11 people on trial in Riyadh.

Western officials said numerous suspects claimed they were carrying out Assiri's orders, describing him as the ringleader.

Five Saudis were sentenced to death past year following a top secret trial in Saudi Arabia.

Worldwide arrest warrants have also been issued by the Turkish authorities, said the prosecutor's office.

The prosecutors have already issued arrest warrants for the suspects who are not in Turkey.

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