Five people have been sentenced to death for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announced the sentences on Monday, adding that three more people had been given jail terms totalling 24 years over the killing of Saudi national Khashoggi in Istanbul in October last year.
The five sentenced to death, whose names have not yet been released, were charged with “committing and directly participating in the murder of the victim”, while the three sentenced to prison were given various sentences “for their role in covering up this crime and violating the law”.
All those convicted will be able to appeal their sentences.
The prosecutor said Saud al-Qahtani, a former high-profile Saudi royal adviser, was investigated but not charged and was released.
Washington Post columnist and US resident Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on October 2, where he was planning to receive papers ahead of his wedding. He was murdered inside by a team of Saudi agents, reportedly dismembered, and his remains have never been recovered.
Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman drew international condemnation over the killing because several Saudi agents involved worked directly for him.
The kingdom has carried out the trials of the accused in near total secrecy.
Agnes Callamard, a UN special rapporteur who authored an inquiry into Khashoggi’s killing, later said the search for justice must not be left to the Saudi judicial system, which is “so vulnerable to political interference”.
Callamard reacted to the verdicts announced from Riyadh by tweeting that “the travesty of investigation, prosecution and justice continues” in Saudi Arabia.
US president Donald Trump condemned the killing, and his administration sanctioned 17 Saudis suspected of being involved, but not the crown prince.
Trump, however, has steadfastly resisted calls by members of his own party for a tougher response and has defended maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia, framing its importance as a major buyer of US military equipment and weapons and saying this creates American jobs.
In Turkey, Yasin Aktay, a member of Turkey’s ruling party and a friend of Khashoggi, criticised the verdict.
“The prosecutor sentenced five hitmen to death but did not touch those who were behind the five,” Aktay told The Associated Press.
“These are people who cannot even use the bathroom without the permission of their superiors.”
“The verdict neither meets the expectations of the public conscience nor the feeling of justice,” he said.