Saudi Arabia's attempts to sweep the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi under the rug was quickly embraced by the United States. The US State Department welcomed the death sentence issued against five by a closed-door proceeding in the Kingdom. Calling it an "important step," the US official added that it was them who persuaded their ally to undertake a "fair and transparent" judicial process.
The US State Department official said, "Today's verdicts were an important step in holding those responsible for this terrible crime accountable." The US "encouraged Saudi Arabia to undertake a fair and transparent judicial process. We're pressing them for more transparency and for holding everybody accountable," the official added. Saudi Arabia on December 23 sentenced five people to death over the brutal killing of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's dissident, Khashoggi, in a closed-door judicial proceeding. However, it released two close-aides of Mohammed bin Salman--Saud bin Abdullah al-Qahtani and Ahmed al-Asiri. The Crown Prince's former media consultant al-Qahtani was known to be instrumental in the murder of Khashoggi.
Turkey lambasted Saudi Arabia's 'scandalous' verdict, asserting that those responsible were given immunity. "Those who dispatched a death squad to Istanbul on a private jet... and sought to sweep this murder under the rug have been granted immunity. To claim that a handful of intelligence operatives committed this murder is to mock the world’s intelligence" Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's media aide wrote.
Jamal Khashoggi, a vehement critic of Mohammed bin Salman was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The murder and the later conduct of Riyadh actuated global outrage, with both the CIA and UN concluding the role of the Crown Prince himself in the murder. UN's human rights investigator Agnes Callamard had said that the murder was a "deliberate, premeditated execution." She further called for a probe against the ally of the US, Mohammed bin Salman himself.
However, the US President had dismissed a UN request for the FBI to probe the murder, stating that it would jeopardise the US arms sale to the Kingdom. Following the verdict, Callamard on Monday noted that the sentence was "anything but justice" for the Washington Post columnist and objected to the trial proceedings. In a series of tweets, Callamard accentuated Khashoggi's murder was an extrajudicial execution for which Riyadh was responsible, however, the trial did not consider the responsibility of the state. Pointing her fingers directly at the de-facto ruler, she said, "The execution of Jamal Khashoggi demanded an investigation into the chain of command to identify the masterminds, as well as those who incited, allowed or turned a blind eye to the murder, such as the Crown Prince."
Saudi Arabia's attempt of obfuscation, cover-ups and changing narratives was enabled by the US President Donald Trump's backing in the past year. The White House not only maintained close ties with Riyadh but also relegitimized Mohammed bin Salman's global image. In weeks after Khashoggi's death, Trump on multiple occasions heaped praises of the Crown Prince, calling him a "friend" and lauding Mohammed bin Salman for "opening up Saudi Arabia" at the time when the Kingdom was shadowed by the brutal Yemen war and was actively thwarting women rights.
Trump had previously said that he is 'extremely angry' about the murder, but that nobody had "pointed a finger" at the Kingdom's crown prince."I am extremely angry and unhappy" about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi's consulate in Istanbul, Trump said. But "nobody has directly pointed a finger at the future King of Saudi Arabia", the US president added when asked about whether he raised the issue during a meeting with the royal. On October 17 last year, days into the mystery missing of Khashoggi, prior to the confirmation of his death, Trump had said, "I think we have to find out what happened first."
Reports emerging in November indicated that Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner gave a green light to Saudi Crown Prince to arrest Khashoggi. According to international reports, Turkish intelligence intercepted the call between Kushner and the Crown. The information was later reportedly leveraged by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to drive Donald Trump out of northern Syria, and abandon US' Kurdish ally.