Five people have been sentenced to death in connection with the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announced Monday, but the two most senior officials implicated in the case, including an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were cleared of wrongdoing.
The slaying of Khashoggi in October 2018 sparked a global outcry against the kingdom and led to greater scrutiny of a crackdown on dissidents pursued by the crown prince. Khashoggi, 59, who contributed columns to The Washington Post from his self-imposed exile in the United States, had emerged as one of Mohammed’s most prominent critics.
The verdicts came after a trial in Riyadh’s criminal court that lasted nearly a year and was shrouded in secrecy. Court sessions were closed to the public, and foreign officials were told not to reveal details of the proceedings. Human rights groups warned that the lack of transparency threatened to obscure the possible involvement of senior Saudi officials — including the crown prince — in the killing.
The CIA concluded last year that Mohammed had ordered Khashoggi’ s assassination, contradicting Saudi Arabia’s insistence that the crown prince had no advance knowledge of the plot.
At a news conference in Riyadh on Monday, Shalaan al-Shalaan, a spokesman for the Saudi public prosecutor, declined to identify the five people who were sentenced to death. Three other people were sentenced to jail terms totaling 24 years.
Shalaan said two senior officials — Saud al-Qahtani, a royal adviser, and Ahmed al-Assiri, the former deputy head of intelligence — were investigated and exonerated. Mohamed al-Otaibi, who served as consul general in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul when the killing occurred, was also cleared, the spokesman said.