Justice for Jamal Khashoggi remains elusive.
It was not served by the sentences handed down by a secretive Saudi Arabian court on Monday — with three people sentenced to prison and five to death, probably by beheading, which only exacerbates the barbarity of this sordid episode.
Instead, impunity remains the rule for Saudi leaders, especially Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of the country.
The crown prince, in a series of public relations moves meant to quell the international outrage over the grisly kidnapping, murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and journalist, told “60 Minutes” that as leader he “takes full responsibility” for the killing, but that he had no knowledge that it was to take place.
A U.N. investigation, the CIA, an overwhelming, bipartisan Capitol Hill consensus, and common sense suggest otherwise.
Nothing of this magnitude in the controlled kingdom is a rogue operation, as evidenced by: the 15-member team of Saudi agents, including a forensic doctor with a bone saw, who were flown to the Istanbul consulate where the crime took place; the body double who was deployed to create a fake surveillance video trail suggesting Khashoggi had left the consulate alive; and one of the Saudi agents who was recorded calling Khashoggi a “sacrificial animal” upon his arrival. That’s a planned murder of a man who was a U.S. resident. The kingdom repeatedly lied about it, and the crown prince has so far evaded any legal culpability.
The verdict was “anything BUT justice,” Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings who issued the U.N. report, said in a series of scathing tweets that pointed out examples of obstruction of justice. “Under international human rights law, the killing of Mr. Khashoggi was an extrajudicial execution for which the State of Saudi Arabia is responsible” — which the court didn’t consider, Callamard wrote.
“Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death,” he added. “The masterminds not only walk free. They have been barely touched by the investigation and the trial. That is the antithesis of Justice. It is a mockery.”
That’s the same word used by Dokhi Fassihian, executive director for Reporters Without Borders USA. “It’s critical that world leaders denounce this verdict, and call this sham for what it is, and to make sure that the government of Saudi Arabia completely understands that we’re not buying into their lies,” she told an editorial writer.
Chief among these world leaders is America’s commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump, who cravenly equivocated on the crown prince’s potential culpability, saying in a statement, “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
The facts clearly suggest that he did, and every American leader should stand up for accountability and justice.
“The United States has a very, very important role to play as a country that has traditionally been a beacon of freedom, a beacon of freedom of expression and press freedom,” Fassihian said.
It’s time for that beacon to shine brightly on the Khashoggi case.