RIYADH/BEIRUT—A Saudi Arabian court on Monday jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years for the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, state media reported—four months after his family forgave his killers and enabled death sentences to be set aside.
The trial was criticised by a U.N. official and human rights campaigners who claim that the masterminds of the murder remained free.
Khashoggi was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, where he had gone to obtain documents for his impending wedding. His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building and his remains have not been found.
The kingdom’s top prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb said in November 2018 that a 15-member team went to Istanbul to coerce Khashoggi into returning to Saudi Arabia, but instead killed him in a rogue operation.
The murder caused a global uproar as some governments said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—the kingdom’s de facto ruler and son of King Salman who Khashoggi had been critical of—would unlikely have not known about the killing. The claims tarnished the reformist image of Prince Mohammed.
Saudi officials denied he played a role. The prince in September 2019 took some responsibility for killing, saying that “it happened under my watch.”
Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, citing intelligence sources, said in 2018 that Khashoggi was considered a threat to the Saudi leadership due to his involvement in the Muslim Brotherhood and a center to promote its ideology.
“[The Muslim Brothershood] have been implacably opposed to many of the more liberal reforms of the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS),” Downer wrote in an opinion piece for the Australian Financial Review. “This man wasn’t some Western-oriented liberal brutally murdered because of his passion for freedom. This man was a player.”
State media reported that five people were handed 20-year prison sentences, one person was sentenced to 10 years and two people received seven-year sentences for the killing.
None of the defendants was named.
After the ruling, Khashoggi’s fiancee said the eight jailed were not the only ones responsible for the murder.
“The Saudi authorities are closing the case without the world knowing the truth of who is responsible for Jamal’s murder,” Hatice Cengiz wrote in a statement. “Who planned it, who ordered it, where is his body?”
In December, the court sentenced five people to death and three to jail, saying the killing was not premeditated but carried out on “the spur of the moment.”
In May, the family of the slain journalist said it forgave his murderers, paving the way for a reprieve for the five defendants sentenced to death.
In Saudi Arabia, which lacks a codified legal system and follows Islamic law, forgiveness from a victim’s family in such cases can allow for a formal pardon and a stay of execution.
A U.S. State Department official said Washington had seen reports of the sentencing and was “closely monitoring Saudi legal processes” in the case.
Turkey, which launched its own trial against 20 Saudi officials in July, said the verdict in Saudi Arabia fell short of expectations, urging Saudi authorities to cooperate with Turkey’s investigation.
“We still don’t know what happened to Khashoggi’s body, who wanted him dead or if there were local collaborators—which casts doubt on the credibility of the legal proceedings in KSA,” presidency communications director Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter, referring to Saudi Arabia.
By Marwa Rashad and Raya Jalabi. Epoch Times writer Holly Kellum contributed to this report.