Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi's sons 'forgive' dad's killers, experts say murderers could now get clemency
Sons of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Friday, May 22, said they have forgiven the killers of their father. Khashoggi, 59, was a critic of the royal regime of the Middle Eastern kingdom and was brutally murdered and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, bringing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman under criticism. According to AFP, with Khashoggi's sons forgiving his killers, the five people who were convicted of the murder and are on death row would effectively get clemency as a result. The five got death sentences in a Saudi court ruling last December which also exonerated two top aides to the crown prince, who is widely known as MBS.
Khashoggi's death created a massive diplomatic stir with countries like Turkey and the US getting dragged into it. The veteran journalist was based in the US and was a contributing columnist for The Washington Post. While there were demands that the Donald Trump administration take strong measures against Saudi, one of the US' time-tested allies, nothing happened to that effect. Khashoggi's murder reportedly involved 15 Saudi agents who had traveled to Istanbul and the journalist's body was never found.
"In this blessed night of the blessed month (of Ramadan) we remember God's saying: If a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah. Therefore, we the sons of the Martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce that we pardon those who killed our father, seeking reward God almighty," Salah Khashoggi, one of the sons, announced on Twitter. It was on the first death anniversary of Khashoggi last October that Salah spoke in defense of the kingdom, saying he had "full confidence" in the Saudi judiciary and criticized opponents for allegedly trying to exploit the case. In October 2018, days after senior Khashoggi was killed, Salah was seen shaking hands with MBS at the Yamama Palace in Riyadh where the Saudi king and MBS met Salah and his brother Sahel to offer condolences over their father’s death.
One of Khashoggi's friends earlier told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity that Salah was put under a travel ban since his late father wrote critically about the prince for The Washington Post. AFP added that the Saudi authorities did not immediately speak on the legal ramifications of the announcement made by Khashoggi's sons. Salah has denied reports that he had a financial settlement with the Saudi government. Last year, the Post reported that Khashoggi's children had received multimillion-dollar houses and were being handsomely paid on a monthly basis by the authorities.
"What this essentially means is that the killers will avoid capital punishment since that is a right the family (under sharia law) has to forgive," Ali Shihabi, a Saudi author and analyst close to the government said on Twitter. "Other legal procedures by the state continue." Analyst Nabeel Nowairah also felt the declaration made by Khashoggi’s sons effectively means the "murderers will not be executed".
A total of 11 people were indicted in the case, most of whose identities have not been revealed. Five were given death sentences while three got jail sentences, with a total of 24 years. The rest were acquitted, as per the public prosecutor.