Amnesty International Calls Jamal Khashoggi Murder Sentences 'A Whitewash,' Say it Fails to Address Saudi Authorities' Involvement

Amnesty International has described the Saudi Arabian government's sentencing of five men to death for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a "whitewash" of justice because they cleared the top officials tied to Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

The London-based human rights organization derided the Saudi Arabian Public Prosecutor's Monday announcement they would be executing five individuals for "directly participating" in the October 2018 murder of Khashoggi. Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor Shaalan al-Shaalan sentenced three additional men to prison time but ultimately cleared the three top advisers under bin Salman. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018. His remains have yet to be located, and U.S. as well as other international agencies have alleged Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered inside the embassy.

Amnesty International joined several international agencies Monday in condemning the Saudi Public Prosecutor's verdict: "[The verdict] fails to address the Saudi authorities' involvement in this devastating crime or clarify the location of Jamal Khashoggi's remains."

The NGO's Monday press release continued, "This verdict is a whitewash which brings neither justice nor the truth for Jamal Khashoggi and his loved ones. The trial has been closed to the public and to independent monitors, with no information available as to how the investigation was carried out ... Saudi Arabia's courts routinely deny defendants access to lawyers and condemn people to death following grossly unfair trials."

Three of bin Salman's top advisers, media consultant Saud al-Qahtani, former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri and Saudi consul general in Istanbul at the time of the murder, Mohammed al-Otaibi, were cleared of all charges tied to the crime. Deputy Prosecutor al-Shaalan said there was "no evidence" to pursue charges against al-Qahtani and the others with close ties to bin Salman.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a United Nations report previously concluded that bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi's killing. U.N. Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard described the Saudi ruling on Twitter: "Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial."

The Saudis have maintained the murder was a result of a "rogue operation," but the U.N. said bin Salman and top Saudi government officials directly ordered the "extrajudicial execution" of Khashoggi last year.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International demanded the Saudi government release human rights defender, Waleed Abu al-Khair. The NGO said "credible reports" indicate he was placed in solitary confinement in Dhahban Prison near Jeddah in late November and is being tortured.

"The fact that Waleed Abu al-Khair is in prison to begin with, let alone serving a 15-year prison sentence, is outrageous," Amnesty International wrote on its website earlier this month. "He was imprisoned under bogus terrorism-related charges simply for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and defending human rights. He is one amongst scores of Saudi women and men being punished for standing up for their fellow citizens' rights."

Protester for Khashoggi
A demonstrator dressed as Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with blood on his hands protests outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. on October 8, 2018 JIM WATSON/AFP