As much as Prince Mohammad bin Salman (known as MBS) wants to leave behind the tragic episode that occurred on October 2, 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi will haunt him to the grave. The prince may try to draw a thick veil, but more than one will rebel against that action. In any case, two years later the answers to the most basic questions remain unknown: who ordered the murder, who carried it out and where is the body.
Different organizations, NGOs and international personalities have rejected the cancellation of five death sentences against the defendants that Riyadh announced on Monday, and those persistent voices will not be silenced in the future. The responsibility will continue to fall on the shoulders of MBS, without whose authorization the murder would hardly have been carried out.
One of the most forceful replies has come from The Washington Post, the newspaper for which Khashoggi worked, which in an editorial points out that the judicial annulment is a maneuver with which MBS intends to pave the way for the G-20 summit convened soon in Riyadh and to which the main leaders of the democratic world are invited.
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The newspaper believes that the leaders should boycott the summit until what happened is clarified and responsibilities are clarified. Clearly, should the summit take place, MBS will succeed in legitimizing its position on the international scene. The powerful prince has kept a low profile in recent months and sees the summit as his lifeline.
MBS has smeared Khashoggi’s family with millions of dollars to keep it quiet, to the point that the late journalist’s children said in May that they have “forgiven” their father’s killers. The family prefers not to comment, although on occasion they have hinted that they will not delve into the murder, a position not shared by Khashoggi’s Turkish girlfriend, who has not bowed to pressure or money and has become the most critical voice against the Saudi regime.
MBS will be the G-20’s first Arab guest and has the backing of the Trump administration, not only to organize the summit but also for the specific case of the Istanbul crime. The US president himself has wanted to turn the page and has protected the prince by preventing the American intelligence services from making public what they know of the murder.
The president of the USA; Donald Trump, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the Oval Office of the White House, during the reception of the Protecting Pastor Andrew Brunson and his family after his liberation by Turkey. EFE / EPA / OLIVIER DOULIERY
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Critics recall that Khashoggi’s death is not the only sword hanging over MBS’s head. There are actually quite a few swords , such as the systematic bombings in Yemen, the repression of dissidents in Saudi Arabia, or the tight blockade against Qatar for not conforming to the controversial policies of the rulers of Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates.
On Monday, the Saudi judicial system again laundered MBS’s reputation by lowering the sentences of the eight accused of killing and dismembering Khashoggi. One proof that the sentence lacks the minimum standards of transparency is that the identity of the culprits has not even been revealed. The two main suspects, the Deputy Director of Intelligence, Ahmed Asiri, and the prominent adviser to Prince Saud al Qahtani were already exonerated at the time. As there is no evidence, there is not even evidence that those who were sentenced to between seven and 20 years in prison are in jail.
The sentence recalls that Khashoggi’s body was never found. The method of the murder , drowning followed by dismemberment with a saw, only emerged after an investigation by the French Agnès Callamard, special rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Council, who reached this conclusion by examining the Turkish recordings that implicate MBS.
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Callamard published a tweet on the same Monday in which he described a sentence as a “parody of justice” that does not provide any “legal or moral legitimacy” to the case and does not even reveal the names of those sentenced. The rapporteur recalls that “the senior officials who organized the execution (of Khashoggi) were free from the beginning.”
According to The Washington Post, all this theater obeys the intention of MBS to close the case as soon as possible so that the great leaders attend the G-20 conclave. European leaders will have to decide in the coming weeks whether to give in to pressure from Washington to come or whether to boycott the prince. That is what is at stake right now, not to mention the juicy arms sales to the Saudis.
The absence of justice in the Khashoggi case is not going to prevent Trump from attending the summit, but Europeans should reconsider their participation. It is true that on the one hand there are the thousands of jobs in European arms factories, but on the other hand Europe must leave behind once and for all the cynicism that dominates its relations with the Middle East and contradicts the principles it claims to defend .