The fiancée of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi vowed to fight a Turkish court's decision Thursday to move the trial of 26 Saudi suspects in the gruesome 2018 killing to Saudi Arabia, a ruling that human rights groups fear will spell an end to the case. Hatice Cengiz, who has been relentlessly ampaigning for justice in the years since Khashoggi's murder, said Thursday that her fight "is not over."
As The Washington Post reported, the decision Thursday marked "a stunning reversal by Turkey, which in the years after the killing of Khashoggi... went to extraordinary lengths to publicize the Saudi government’s role in the plot." The report said: "More recently, though, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan's government has tried to improve ties with the kingdom as Turkey weathers one of its worst economic crises in decades," the Post noted.
Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi regime, was assassinated inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a 15-man hit team. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the country, directly approved the murder.
"The courts might have decided that they can ignore the truth about his case, but I will not stop and I will not be quiet about it," Cengiz said in response to the Turkish criminal court's decision Thursday. "We all know who is guilty of Jamal's murder and it is now more important than ever that I keep going."
Cengiz, the plaintiff in the closely watched murder case, is vowing to appeal the court's ruling, which was widely viewed as a politically motivated move aimed at mending strained relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
In addition to ruling that the case should be moved to Saudi Arabia, the Turkish court "decided to lift arrest warrants issued against the defendants and gave the sides seven days to lodge any opposition," according to the Associated Press.
Milena Büyüm, Amnesty International's Turkey campaigner, tweeted that the court's ruling is "appalling and clearly political." Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey director for Human Rights Watch, added that "it's a scandalous decision."
#UPDATE Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of murdered Saudi critic Jamal #Khashoggi, said Thursday she would appeal a Turkish court's decision to hand to Saudi Arabia a case involving 26 suspects linked to his killing https://t.co/EveAnBNV8x pic.twitter.com/mjb3vVefYg— AFP News Agency (@AFP) April 7, 2022
In 2020, after what observers described as a "sham trial," a Saudi court sentenced five mid-level officials and operatives to 20-year jail terms for their role in the Khashoggi murder. No high-ranking Saudi officials have been punished for ordering the assassination or attempting to cover it up.
Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International's secretary-general, said in a statement ahead of the Turkish court's decision that the Khashoggi murder "was not the action of a few 'rogue' individuals."
"All elements of the operation demonstrate the responsibility of the state of Saudi Arabia," said Callamard, who led an extensive U.N. investigation into the killing in 2019. "By deciding to transfer the case of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, Turkey is deciding to hand it back to those responsible for it." Callamard added: "It is a sure and certain guarantee that only injustice and impunity will prevail."