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Jamal Khashoggi: Istanbul vigil held on anniversary of journalist’s murder

A vigil has been held in Istanbul for the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered there a year ago.

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi Arabia’s government, was killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in the Turkish city by a team of Saudi agents.

A UN expert says it was a “premeditated extrajudicial execution” and the Saudi crown prince should be investigated.

Mohammed bin Salman denies involvement, but on Sunday he said he took full responsibility as a Saudi leader.

Media captionMohammed bin Salman is asked: “Did you order the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?”

Saudi prosecutors have put on trial 11 people who they say were involved in the “rogue operation” that led to Khashoggi’s death. They are seeking the death penalty for five of them.

However, Human Rights Watch says the trial does not meet international standards and that Saudi authorities have “obstructed meaningful accountability”.

What happened at the vigil?

The event took place near the Saudi consulate, which the 59-year-old US-based columnist for the Washington Post entered on 2 October 2018 to obtain papers he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. She waited outside the building for him, but he never emerged.

“I still seek justice,” Ms Cengiz said in a speech at the vigil. “I want to know what happened to his body. I want his friends to be released from jail. I want that those in power are held accountable for their actions.”

Security personnel stand outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul (2 October 2019)
Image captionThe vigil took place near the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Jamal Khashoggi was murdered

Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos told her: “No-one should ever have to endure what you did. Right here, where you are, you paced that street for hours, pacing and waiting. And he never came out.

“It is unimaginable and you need to know that you are in our hearts. We are here and you are not alone.”

How did Jamal Khashoggi die?

After listening to purported audio recordings of conversations inside the Saudi consulate made by Turkish intelligence on the day of the killing, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, concluded that Khashoggi was “brutally slain”.

Saudi Arabia’s deputy public prosecutor Shalaan Shalaan told reporters in November that the murder was ordered by the head of a “negotiations team” sent to Istanbul by the Saudi deputy intelligence chief to bring Khashoggi back to the kingdom “by means of persuasion” or, if that failed, “by force”.

Investigators concluded that Khashoggi was forcibly restrained after a struggle and injected with a large amount of a drug, resulting in an overdose that led to his death, Mr Shalaan said. His body was then dismembered and handed over to a local “collaborator” outside the consulate, he added. His body has not been found.

Media captionJamal Khashoggi: What we know about the journalist’s disappearance and death

Five individuals had confessed to the murder, Mr Shalaan asserted, adding: “[Crown Prince Mohammed] did not have any knowledge about it.”

According to interviews conducted by the special rapporteur, the defendants’ lawyers have argued in court that they were state employees and could not object to the orders of their superiors.

The most senior official on trial, former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad Mohammed Asiri, has reportedly insisted that he never authorised the use of force to bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia.

Who is responsible?

In a report published in June, Ms Callamard concluded that it was “an extrajudicial killing for which the state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible”.

She also determined that there was “credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the crown prince’s”, and called for them to be subject to international sanctions until evidence was produced that showed they had not been involved.

In an interview with CBS News on Sunday, Prince Mohammed said: “This was a heinous crime. But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.”

He also denied knowing about the operation, despite two of his closest advisers being implicated.

“Some think that I should know what three million people working for the Saudi government do daily? It’s impossible that the three million would send their daily reports to the leader or the second highest person in the Saudi government,” he added.

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