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Khashoggi killing: Turkish court puts Saudi suspects on trial in absentia

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A Turkish police officer walks past a picture of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi prior to a ceremony, near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbull - Oct. 2, 2019 (file)
A Turkish police officer walks past a picture of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi prior to a ceremony, near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbull - Oct. 2, 2019 (file)   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
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Twenty Saudi officials have gone on trial in absentia in Turkey over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Istanbul prosecutors accuse both the former deputy head of Saudi Arabia's general intelligence Ahmed al-Asiri and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani of instigating "premeditated murder with monstrous intent."

The other 18 are accused of suffocating Khashoggi.

His fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, hopes that more information will come to light during the trial about his death and about his body. His remains have never been found.

Khashoggi, who was a resident of the United States, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, for an appointment to pick up documents that would allow him to get married. He never walked out.

Turkish officials allege his body was dismembered and removed from the building. Turkey apparently had the Saudi Consulate bugged and subsequently shared audio of the killing with the CIA, among others.

The whole incident shocked the world and damaged relations between Ankara and Riyadh.

Some western governments accused Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of ordering the death, which officials deny.

It's expected the defendants will be absent during the proceedings. They have all left Turkey but could face life prison terms if convicted.

Saudi Arabia has rejected Turkish demands for the suspects' extradition and put some of them on trial in Riyadh. The proceedings were widely criticized as a “whitewash” and Khashoggi's family later announced that they had forgiven his killers.

Prior to his killing, Khashoggi had written critically of Saudi Arabia's crown prince in columns for the Washington Post.

Amnesty International's Turkey campaigner Milena Buyum welcomed the effort in Istanbul to bring to justice those behind Khashoggi’s killing.

"This horrific murder should not end with impunity of those responsible," she told Euronews.