Sons of Jamal Khashoggi forgive his killers, clearing the path for official pardons
By KAREEM FAHIM | The Washington Post | Published: May 22, 2020
The sons of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi posted a message on social media early Friday saying that they have forgiven their father's killers, a declaration that could allow Saudi authorities to commute the death sentences of five Saudi officials convicted of Khashoggi's murder.
The statement was posted on the Twitter account of Salah Khashoggi, the journalist's eldest son, who lives in Saudi Arabia. "We, sons of the martyr Jamal Khashoggi, announce that we forgive those who killed our father," said the message, which cited a tradition of granting pardons during the holy month of Ramadan.
The Saudi justice system allows families of victims in some capital cases to grant clemency to convicted killers. There had been widespread speculation that Khashoggi's children, who have refrained from criticizing the Saudi leadership, would take such a step, though it was not clear whether their expression of forgiveness was extended willingly or coerced.
Khashoggi's fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, criticized the Khashoggi family statement on Friday. "No one has the right to pardon his killers," she wrote on Twitter. "I and others will not stop until we get #JusticeForJamal."
Khashoggi, a veteran journalist who contributed columns to The Washington Post, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 when he went to collect documents that would allow him to remarry. The killers were Saudi government agents, dispatched to Turkey on the orders of top advisers to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to Turkish and Saudi prosecutors.
Khashoggi's body was dismembered as part of a blundering attempt by the agents to cover up the murder, prosecutors said. The Saudi government initially denied any knowledge of the killing and later called it a rogue operation. The crown prince denied any advance knowledge of the plot, even though the CIA concluded with "medium to high confidence" that Mohammed had ordered Khashoggi's killing.
Saudi prosecutors said in December that five unidentified people had been sentenced to death in connection with the murder after a trial in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Three other people were sentenced to jail terms totaling 24 years.
The verdicts were criticized by human rights groups because of the trial's secrecy. Two senior officials who were implicated in the killing, including Saud al-Qahtani, the crown prince's media adviser, were cleared of wrongdoing, prosecutors said.
Even as the trial was held, the Saudi royal court was preparing for a private settlement with Khashoggi's four children and hoping to ensure they refrained from criticizing the kingdom's leadership, according to current and former Saudi officials.
To that end, the children were given multimillion-dollar homes and monthly five-figure payments as part of a compensation package that was approved by King Salman soon after Khashoggi's killing, officials said.
After the payments were reported by The Post last year, Salah Khashoggi, a banker, characterized them as "acts of generosity" by Saudi Arabia's leader and said they were "not admission of guilt or scandal." He said that "no settlement discussion has been or is discussed."