Jamal Khashoggi: Fiancée rejects family forgiveness offer to killers

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In this file photo taken on December 15, 2014 Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi attends a press conference in the Bahraini capital ManamaImage source, AFP
Image caption,
A UN report labelled Khashoggi's death a "deliberate, premeditated execution"

Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancée has said "no-one has the right to pardon his killers" after his son said he forgave them.

Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018.

Saudi officials say this was a "rogue operation" not sanctioned by the state. This account has been doubted globally.

Among those questioning the official Saudi line were some intelligence agencies and the United Nations.

Khashoggi had been writing for the Washington Post newspaper and living in the US before his death.

After offering changing accounts of his disappearance, Saudi authorities eventually admitted he was killed in a botched operation by a team tasked with getting him to return to the country.

In December 2019, a court sentenced five unnamed men to death for their role in his killing after a secretive trial in Riyadh.

A UN special rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, labelled the Saudi trial the "antithesis of justice" and urged an independent investigation.

What has Khashoggi's fiancée said?

On Friday, Hatice Cengiz wrote on Twitter that Jamal Khashoggi had become "an international symbol bigger than any of us, admired and loved."

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Ms Cengiz added that "Jamal was killed inside his country's consulate while getting the docs to complete our marriage. The killers came from Saudi with premeditation to lure, ambush [and] kill him."

There are two, diametrically opposed versions to this story.

In one, widely carried by the Saudi government-controlled media, the family of Jamal Khashoggi has forgiven his killers. This would be in line with the public stance adopted by his son, Salah, who was filmed accepting the condolences of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man suspected by many of being personally behind the killing.

But Salah still lives in Saudi Arabia, and there are suspicions he has been coerced into issuing the pardon.

So the opposing view, as voiced by Khashoggi's fiancée and also by the UN special rapporteur who investigated the murder, is that this is all part of a cover-up by the Saudi authorities. They believe that the true culprits are still at large and that justice has yet to be served. None of this is likely to receive much attention in the media in Saudi Arabia, a country now hit by the twin blows of coronavirus and collapsing oil revenues.

What about Khashoggi's son's comments?

Earlier, a statement was posted to the Twitter account of Salah Khashoggi, one of the late journalist's sons who lives in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

"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," it said.

"Therefore we the sons of the Martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce pardoning those who killed our father, seeking reward God almighty."

Image source, Handout/AFP
Image caption,
Salah Khashoggi (left) was pictured meeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the murder

Death sentences can be commuted in light of a pardon by the victim's family under Islamic law, but it is not clear whether that will apply in this case.

Salah has previously issued statements expressing his confidence in, and support of, the Saudi investigation.

He has also previously criticised "opponents and enemies" of Saudi Arabia who he said had tried to exploit his father's death to undermine the country's leadership.

Last year, the Washington Post reported that Khashoggi's children had received homes and monthly payments as compensation for the killing of their father.

But Salah, Khashoggi's eldest son, was the only sibling who intended to carry on living in Saudi Arabia, the newspaper said.

What happened to Jamal Khashoggi?

The journalist - who had gone into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017 - went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 seeking documents to get married to fiancé Hatice Cengiz.

Investigators believe that he was murdered and dismembered while she waited outside, but his remains have never been recovered.

Saudi officials initially claimed he had left the building alive and their account of events changed several times in the weeks after his disappearance.

Media caption,
Mohammed bin Salman is asked: "Did you order the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?"

Details of his gruesome killing shocked the world, and a subsequent UN report said there was credible evidence that the crown prince and other high-level Saudi officials were individually liable.

The prince has denied any involvement in the murder, but has said he took "full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government".