Supposed "suspects" in Khashoggi's killing go to court

Are we approaching some form of justice in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi? You might be tempted to think so based on the latest news out of Saudi Arabia. Their investigation into the killing has produced eleven suspects and they are preparing to go to trial. At least five are expected to receive the death penalty if convicted. (Associated Press)

Saudi prosecutors will seek the death penalty for at least five people in the slaying of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the kingdom’s state media reported on Thursday as 11 suspects attended their first court hearing.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency and state television gave few details about the hearing and did not name the suspects. However, a statement from prosecutors said the suspects attended the hearing with their lawyers.

The statement also said that prosecutors sent a request to Turkey for evidence that Ankara has collected over the Oct. 2 slaying of Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

To say the least, this isn’t exactly the model of transparency we might be hoping for. First of all, there was apparently no media present for the hearings. All the information we’re getting is coming from state-approved press releases. They’re also not releasing any of the names of the people who have been charged. What’s the idea behind that? The Saudi government isn’t exactly known for any dedication to the privacy rights of its citizens. If they think they know who the killers and their co-conspirators are, why not give out the names?

Unfortunately for the Saudi Royal Family, international media has been running the pictures of some of the murder crew ever since Turkey released surveillance footage of them. This included the body double they brought in to dress in Khashoggi’s clothing and leave the embassy to throw people off the trail. Turkey previously released a list of names of the people who were allegedly involved in the plot and it included seven men who are personal bodyguards of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Are any of those names among the eleven people facing trial? How about the list of men who were filmed removing Khashoggi’s body parts in plastic trash bags. Will those faces be among those facing trial? We have no idea because the Saudis aren’t releasing the information. There was also a previous demand from Turkey that the men be returned to stand trial there since that’s where the crime took place. The Saudis have conveniently ignored that request.

Unless and until Saudi Arabia decides to be more forthcoming, for all we know Salman has simply rounded up a collection of inconvenient, disposable citizens and is preparing to execute them to make all of this go away. I don’t believe the Royal Family has earned any sort of benefit of the doubt here and if they still want to be allies of the United States and benefit from this relationship, they need to do a lot better than this.