Resumption of trials in Turkey over the murders of journalists Jamal Khashoggi and Musa Anter: a challenge to restore justice

Fifth hearing in the murder of a Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi will be held on November 23 at the Caglayan Court in Istanbul.

At the last two hearings, the court rejected the petitions of the journalist’s fiancé Hatice Cengiz to accept as evidence a declassified American intelligence report published several months ago. This report reveals the responsibility of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) in approving this assassination. At each of these hearings, the judge stated that the report would “add nothing to the case” and Hatice Cengiz was asked to submit his request directly to the Attorney General.

All 26 defendants in absentia in the case, initiated on July 3, 2020, are citizens of Saudi Arabia. So far, the court has heard evidence from several witnesses, including three Turkish employees of the Saudi consulate where Jamal Kashoggi was killed on October 2, 2018.

The only NGO that consistently assisted in all procedures, “RSF sees the upcoming hearings as a positive step for Turkish justicesays RSF representative in Turkey Erol Onderoglu. However, it is troubling that the prosecution and the court have not yet considered the links that may have existed between this assassination and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. It also raises the question of whether the Turkish judiciary can truly dispense justice without any political influence.”

Following the release of a declassified US intelligence report on the journalist’s murder, RSF opened criminal proceedings in Germany against MBS and four other senior Saudi officials for crimes against humanity as part of their widespread and systematic persecution of journalists. – including Jamal Khashoggi.

Justice in the Light of Politics

Just 24 hours after another hearing in the murder of Jamal Kashoggi, on November 24, the case of the murder of a prominent Kurdish intellectual and newspaper columnist Ozgur Gundem Musa Anter will also be the subject of hearings in Ankara. The case of Musa Anter, who was shot dead in Diyarbakır in September 1992, has not been brought to court for 29 years – and only one year remains before the statute of limitations expires.

In fact, the old statute of limitations was circumvented in 2012, when, after 20 years of inactivity, the authorities saved the case at the last moment in a gesture to the Kurdish political movement at the start of historic peace talks with the PKK. The sudden end of these negotiations in 2015 ended the lawsuit. One of the main suspects, former special agent Mahmut Yildirim, has still not been found. Former double agent Abdulkadir Aigan, who fled to Sweden, has not yet been interrogated. Finally, in 2017, former assistant Hamit Yildirim, the only suspect arrested in 2012, was released on parole.

Although the Turkish state acknowledged its involvement in the murder of Musa Anter and issued an apology in 1998, justice will probably never be served. Considering both the timing of the development of the investigation and the timing of the investigation, this case clearly shows the political influence that has been exerted on the litigation in Turkey.

RSF calls on the Turkish courts to carry out their work in the Anter case without any political influence. In Turkey, where some 40 journalists have been killed or missing since the 1990s, impunity for crimes against journalists remains a problem. Total impunity continues to exist for some twenty murders committed in southeastern Anatolia between 1990 and 1996. In other cases, the accomplices, instigators or sponsors of the killings have yet to be brought to justice.

Turkey is ranked 153 out of 180 countries in the RSF World Press Freedom Index 2021.

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