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Turkish authorities are considering transferring the trial of those accused of murdering Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, a move seen as an effort by Turkey to improve relations with the Gulf kingdom amid ongoing economic woes, the Washington Post reported.
A Turkish prosecutor asked to halt the trial for the 2018 killing of Khashoggi, following a Saudi transfer request in March.
The prosecutor noted that the defendants are being tried in absentia and attempts to pursue them via Interpol remain fruitless. The court referred the matter to Turkey’s Ministry of Justice and the next hearing is scheduled for April 7.
The move marks a significant turnaround by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose administration played a major role in implicating Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Khashoggi’s killing.
Erdogan released evidence that showed how a team of Saudi operatives had traveled to Istanbul to hunt for Khashoggi, killed and then dismembered him. Khashoggi’s remains have never been found.
The killings sparked international condemnation of Saudi Arabia, which later prompted Turkish authorities to initiate a public trial with witness testimony, which analysts describe as symbolic.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, said in 2020 that it convicted eight people involved in Khashoggi’s murder but did not name any of them. Saudi officials have also denied that the crown prince was involved.
Meanwhile, Turkey has been plagued by economic struggles, including a weak currency and rising living costs. The country has been trying to improve relations with Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.
Erol Onderoglu of Reporters Without Borders warned that if the request is approved, “it will have terrible consequences for the idea of justice.”