The defence team on Thursday requested a copy of the indictment sheet and a timeframe within which to review the charges. The Khashoggi murder shocked the world at a time when Saudi Arabia and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were pushing an aggressive public relations campaign to rebrand the ultraconservative monarchy as a modern state.
Among Prince Mohammed’s strongest allies is US President Donald Trump, who now faces increased pressure to approve measures against Saudi Arabia. The US has sanctioned 17 Saudi citizens in connection with the Khashoggi murder. France and Canada have also sanctioned Saudi Arabian nationals.
The US Central Intelligence Agency has reportedly concluded that Prince Mohammed very likely ordered Khashoggi’s murder. A bipartisan resolution approved by the US Senate last month also holds the crown prince responsible for the killing.
However, in November the Saudi attorney general ruled out any involvement by the young crown prince, whose reformist credentials abroad have been seriously tarnished by the murder.
Ankara has sought the extradition of the suspects in Saudi custody to stand trial in Turkey but its requests have been repeatedly rebuffed by Riyadh. The Khashoggi affair has also given Turkey allied with Saudi rivals Qatar and Iran unusual leverage in regional power plays.
Rights groups and the United Nations have called for an independent investigation into Khashoggi’s death, with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last month calling for a “credible” probe.
“Given the possible involvement of Saudi authorities in Khashoggi’s murder and the lack of independence of Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system, the impartiality of any investigation and trial would be in question,” Samah Hadid, a Middle East director at Amnesty International, told AFP on Thursday.