World News

Saudi prosecutors seek death penalty as Khashoggi murder trial opens

Posted January 3, 2019 7:51 a.m. EST

— Saudi prosecutors sought the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects accused of murdering Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Thursday as their trial began in Riyadh, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The trial comes three months after the Washington Post columnist, and royal family insider-turned-critic, was killed and allegedly dismembered at the consulate in Istanbul.

According to the Saudi Public Prosecutor, Turkey has not responded to requests to turn over relevant evidence in the case, SPA reported. Turkey in turn has repeatedly called for the culprits to be prosecuted under its laws.

Saudi prosecutors first announced their intention to seek the death penalty in November.

They alleged Khashoggi was tied up and injected with an overdose of a sedative that killed him. Then his body was dismembered and removed from the consulate by five people and given to a local collaborator.

The Saudis have presented shifting stories about Khashoggi's fate, initially denying any knowledge before arguing that a group of rogue operators, many of whom belong to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's inner circle, were responsible for the journalist's death.

The Saudi attorney general later acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed in a premeditated murder.

After Saudi Arabia admitted Khashoggi was killed in its Istanbul consulate, five high-ranking officials were dismissed, including bin Salman's media chief and the deputy head of the Saudi intelligence service.

All told, 21 people were arrested and six officials have been removed from their positions, according to the prosecutor and the Saudi Foreign Minister.

Riyadh has maintained that neither bin Salman nor King Salman knew of the operation to target Khashoggi. US officials, however, have said such a mission -- including 15 men sent from Riyadh -- could not have been carried out without the authorization of bin Salman.