RIYADH (Dispatches) – The sons of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said Friday they ‘forgive’ the killers of their father, an announcement analysts said effectively grants clemency to five convicted people on death row.
Khashoggi -- a royal family insider turned critic -- was killed and dismembered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, in a case that tarnished the reputation of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
His family’s pardon could spare the lives of five unnamed people sentenced to death over the murder in a December court ruling that exonerated two top aides to the crown prince.
"On this holy night of this blessed month (of Ramadan)... we the sons of martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce we forgive and pardon those who killed our father,” the Washington Post columnist’s son Salah Khashoggi said on Twitter.
Saudi authorities did not immediately comment on the legal ramifications of the announcement from Salah, who resides in the kingdom and has denied reports of a financial settlement with the government.
"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.”
The Saudi court which issued the five death sentences in December said the killing was not premeditated, a ruling which backed assertions by Saudi officials but which contradicted the findings of a UN-led inquiry into Khashoggi’s killing.
However, Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz said on Friday that no one could pardon his killers. "Nobody has the right to pardon the killers. We will not pardon the killers nor those who ordered the killing,” she said in a tweet.
Khashoggi was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, where he had gone to obtain documents for his impending wedding. His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building, and his remains have not been found.
Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, accused bin Salman of ordering the killing, an accusation that was initially rejected by Saudi officials. A year after the murder the crown prince accepted responsibility, saying "it happened under my watch.”
While 31 were suspects linked to the killing, only 11 were put on trial in the capital city of Riyadh behind closed doors. Based on the court ruling five people were sentenced to death, three to jail and the remaining three were exonerated.