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The fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi, the slain Washington Post columnist, branded the Saudi justice system a farce on Monday after it jailed five people for twenty years over the journalist's murder but did not identify them or explain what role they played in his death.
The Kingdom’s Public Prosecution office announced it had commuted the death sentences of five defendants in Khashoggi's murder trial, handing down 20-year sentences to them instead, while a further three people had been jailed for seven to ten years.
But Hatice Cengiz, who was due to marry Khashoggi before he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, called the trial a "mockery of justice" in a statement.
"The Saudi authorities are closing the case without the world knowing the truth of who is responsible for Jamal's murder," she added. "The international community will not accept this."
In his columns for the Washington Post, Khashoggi was an outspoken critic of the Saudi government and of Mohammad bin Salman, the Kingdom’s Crown Prince and de facto ruler.
Khashoggi had been living in exile in the United States for about a year as the Crown Prince oversaw a crackdown in Saudi Arabia on human rights activists, writers and critics of the Kingdom's war in Yemen.
— Hatice Cengiz / خديجة (@mercan_resifi) September 7, 2020
The Crown Prince has been accused by the CIA of personally ordering Khashoggi’s murder, a charge that he vehemently denies, while Saudi authorities have blamed the death on rogue agents.
In May, Khashoggi’s four children issued a statement which said they had pardoned their father's killers, after five people were sentenced to death in December 2019 by the Saudi courts over the murder.
The pardon appears to have led to the five death sentences being commuted, in favour of long term imprisonment.
“We, sons of the martyr Jamal Khashoggi, announce that we forgive those who killed our father,” said one of the sons, Salah Khashoggi, at the time. “Whoever pardons and makes reconciliation, his reward lies with God. He does not love the unjust.'”
The trial has been strongly criticised by human rights groups and senior UN investigator Agnes Callamard, who closely monitored the case as the special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings.
"The Saudi Prosecutor performed one more act today in this parody of justice. But these verdicts carry no legal or moral legitimacy. They came at the end of a process which was neither fair, nor just, or transparent," she said on Monday on Twitter.
She added: "I do welcome the fact that the death penalty has been commuted. Had such sentences been carried out, they would have amounted to yet more arbitrary killings by the State of Saudi Arabia, and permanent silencing of key witnesses to the execution."