People protest in front of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, DC for Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist killed by a team of assassins at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in 2018. (Photo credit: Olivier Douliery/AFP)
An investigative report published by a UK-based tabloid has revealed that the men convicted of killing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate are living in a seven-star villa in the capital Riyadh, instead of being in prison.
According to The Guardian newspaper, at least three of the five convicts are living and working in a luxury complex owned by the Saudi state intelligence agency.
The paper said that its sources, who are close to senior members of the intelligence, revealed that the killers have been provided with several privileges and amenities such as the use of a gym, routine visits by their family members, and meals prepared by professional caterers.
The men who have been sighted at the luxury complex include Salah al-Tubaigy, the forensic scientist who dismembered Khashoggi’s body, Mansour Abahussein who reportedly led the team of killers, and Mustafa al-Madani who acted as the body double in order to create an impression that Khashoggi had left the consulate when, in fact, he had not.
On 2 October 2018, Khashoggi went to the consulate pick up a document authenticating his divorce so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. He was never seen again.
For days, the Saudi government claimed that Khashoggi had left the consulate. When evidence emerged indicating that the journalist had been brutally murdered inside the consulate by agents connected to the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi government disowned the agents and claimed that they had ‘gone rogue.’
The Saudi government insisted that the crown prince did not have anything to do with the murder. It also said it was going to ensure that the agents involved were prosecuted and ”punished.” In early 2019, 11 individuals went on trial, a trial that many said did not meet international standards.
In December 2019, five of the agents were convicted and given death sentences while three were given prison sentences ranging between seven and 10 years. Three were acquitted due to what the judge said was lack of sufficient evidence. The death sentences given to the five convicts were later commuted to 20-year prison sentences.
Some stakeholders, including the government of Turkey, say that the trial conducted in Saudi Arabia was not transparent.
Ankara insists that those accused be tried in Turkey where the crime was committed. The kingdom rejected an extradition request made by Turkey in March 2020.