A Turkish court on April 7 confirmed a halt of the trial in absentia of 26 suspects linked to the killing of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi and its transfer to Riyadh, a decision that has angered rights groups.
The 59-year-old journalist was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 in a gruesome murder that shocked the world.
A Turkish court began the trial in 2020 with relations tense between the two Sunni Muslim regional powers.
But with Turkey desperate for investment to help pull it out of economic crisis, Ankara has sought to heal the rift with Riyadh.
The court decision comes almost a week after justice minister Bekir Bozdag said that he would greenlight a Turkish prosecutor’s request to hand the case over to Saudi Arabia, at the demand of the latter.
The prosecutor said the case was “dragging” because the court’s orders could not be carried since the defendants were foreigners.
Defence lawyer Ali Ceylan told the court on April 7 that there would not be a fair trial in Saudi Arabia. “Let’s not entrust the lamb to the wolf,” he said, using a Turkish saying.
Another defence lawyer, Gokmen Baspinar, denounced the justice ministry’s move as “against law”. He said that “there is no prosecution going on in Saudi Arabia at the moment”.
“Saudi authorities have concluded the trial and acquitted many suspects.”
He said the decision to hand over the case to Riyadh would be tantamount to a “breach of Turkish sovereignty” and “an example of irresponsibility against Turkish people”.