A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced five people to death and three more to prison for the assassination last year of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Dissident journalist Khashoggi was savagely killed by Saudi government agents last year in the country’s consulate in Istanbul. The assassination drew widespread condemnation from around the world, and sparked several Hollywood players to review – and, in some cases, sever – their ties with Saudi Arabia and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has opened up the conservative Muslim country’s entertainment industry.
A U.N. report last summer said it was inconceivable that the prince, who basically controls all levers of state in Saudi Arabia, did not know of the killing in advance, and recommended an investigation. He has denied any involvement. The Saudi Arabian government has blamed the killing on rogue elements within its security forces.
Eleven people were prosecuted in a closed-door trial that human rights organizations say was opaque and below international judicial standards. A close aide to the crown prince was investigated but not charged.
Khashoggi, 59, an outspoken critic of the Saudi crown prince and his rule of the oil-rich kingdom, was murdered in October 2018 after going inside the consulate in Istanbul to file some paperwork regarding his upcoming marriage. Evidence compiled by Turkish investigators indicated that he was killed and his body dismembered by Saudi agents who had arrived in Turkey days before.
The Saudi government initially denied that Khashoggi was killed in its consulate. But in the face of mounting evidence not just of the murder but of official Saudi involvement, it changed tack and attributed the assassination to security agents operating on their own, without official sanction.
The brutal and targeted killing of a journalist sparked outrage around the world. In Hollywood, WME Endeavor turned back a planned $400 million investment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Vice Media reviewed its dealings with the Saudi Research and Marketing Group. That group remains an investor in Penske Media Corporation, the parent company of Variety.
The Saudi crown prince has denied ordering Khashoggi’s murder. But in a televised interview two months ago, he said that he bore “full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.”