ISTANBUL – A Turkish prosecutor said on Thursday that his country must drop its case against suspects in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, bowing to a demand from Saudi Arabia as Turkey tries to restore relations with the kingdom.
The prosecutor told the court hearing the case that it was pointless to proceed because none of the 26 accused, all Saudi nationals, are in custody, or even in Turkey, and Turkish law does not allow suspects to be charged in absentia. convicted, the Demiroren news agency reported.
The court said it would seek an opinion from the Justice Department and postponed the next hearing to April 7, the court said. Turkey’s Reporters Without Borders and mr. Khashoggi’s betrothed, Hatice Cengizwho was present at the court.
Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen who wrote opinion columns for The Washington Post, had criticized his country’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman. He went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 to obtain documents that would allow him to marry Ms. Cengiz.
He was murdered and dismembered in the Saudi consulate by Saudi agents who had flown there explicitly to kill him and then quickly returned to Saudi Arabia, according to Turkish and Western governments. US intelligence has concluded that Prince Mohammed himself ordered the assassination, and a United Nations investigation has revealed that it was carefully planned and approved by senior Saudi officials.
The Saudi government has denied any involvement by its leaders. Khashoggi’s remains have never been found.
In the weeks following the murder, the Turkish government implemented a calculated media strategy to release fragmentary revelations of its investigation into the murder, including flight records, surveillance video and the Saudis’ use of an elaborate ruse involving a Khashoggi look-alike. The Turks’ approach repeatedly embarrassed the kingdom and forced it to backtrack on denials it had issued.
The case heightened tensions between Prince Mohammed and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who positions himself as the leader of the kind of democratic and Islamic movements in the Middle East that the Saudi royal family sees as a threat to its rule.
Turkish prosecutors had demanded life imprisonment for 24 Saudi suspects accused of participating in the murder, and up to five years in prison for two others accused of concealing evidence, Demiroren reported.
But on Thursday, the prosecutor said the case should be handed over to Saudi Arabia, as that country has demanded. At around the same time, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with broadcaster A Haber that “important steps” are currently being taken to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia.