Saudi Arabia quietly held a second court hearing for 11 people facing charges over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an independent UN human rights expert said, criticising the kingdom for its lack of transparency in the proceedings over the grisly slaying.
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said she learned of the hearing during her first visit to Turkey last week to investigate the murder.
Mr Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who wrote critically about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last October. His remains have not been found. The brutal killing, described by Turkish and US officials as an elaborate plot – has drawn an international outcry about press freedom and Saudi government tactics to quell criticism.
Turkey, which is carrying out its own investigation into Mr Khashoggi’s murder, has been frustrated by what Ankara says is a lack of cooperation by Riyadh.
It has also called for an international inquiry. Mr Khashoggi, a Saudi writer, had gone to the consulate on 2 October to obtain documents for his upcoming wedding to his Turkish fiancee.
After denying for weeks that he was killed in the consulate, Saudi Arabia late last year indicted 11 people in the killing, including members from the crown prince’s entourage, and is seeking the death penalty against five of them. Ms Callamard said the second hearing in Saudi Arabia took place on January 31. She criticised the fact there is “insufficient public attention placed on the proceedings” and that the media are not present at the hearings
Trials in Saudi Arabia can be shrouded in secrecy, she noted, insisting the Khashoggi case should be open to public scrutiny.
“Given the importance of the case, we should be expecting a greater presence of representatives of the media, of civil society, of a range of other governments, not just those hand-picked by the Saudi authorities,” said Ms Callamard, who is director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression at Columbia University in New York.
The revelation of a second hearing highlights the closed-door nature of trials in Saudi Arabia, where international media and monitors are not typically given access to witness court proceedings.
Ms Callamard declined to specify who told her about the hearing.