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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 wants the Saudi crown prince to be investigated over what she says was an extrajudicial execution.

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

Saudi prosecutors have put on trial 11 individuals, who they say murdered Khashoggi in a “rogue operation”, and 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”.

How did Jamal Khashoggi die?

The 59-year-old journalist, a US-based columnist for the Washington Post, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on 2 October 2018 to obtain papers he needed to marry his fiancée Hatice Cengiz.

The UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, said in June that Khashoggi was “brutally slain” inside the consulate that day.

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.

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?

Ms Callamard’s report 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.

Ms Callamard said on Monday that the prince’s statement was “implicit recognition” that the murder was a “state killing”.

“The main implication of the recognition should be a formal acknowledgement, apologies and demonstration of non-repetition. This is what a responsible head of state should do. Nothing of this nature has occurred to date. Quite the contrary,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Secondly, the crown prince takes great pains to distance himself from the killing, creating layers after layers of officials and institutions between himself and the execution of Mr Khashoggi, suggesting they are acting like a buffer,” she added.

“They are not. The identity of the killers and planners point to a far closer relationship between them and him than he is prepared to admit.”

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