Saudi Chief Public Prosecutor al-Mojeb steps in to the investigation on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Yet the question remains: Can sharing of information with the Saudi prosecutor solve the murder? Experts who believe that the murder will remain unsolved argue that “The principles of international politics are on, not those of criminal law.”

Hilal Köylü

The Saudi prosecutor might have come to Turkey. An international information exchange can happen. But the whole point is the evidence has not been made very open. Confidentiality of the investigation should be preserved.” These statements belong to international criminal law professor

Prof. Feridun Yenisey.

Associate Professor Olgun Değirmenci of TOBB University Law School responds to Prof. Yenisey’s statements saying, “In sum, at this point in the Khashoggi killing, the principles of international politics are on, not those of criminal law.”

It has been 27 days since Washington Post journalist Saudi Jamal Khashoggi disappeared after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Saudi authorities, who at first denied that Khashoggi disappeared at the consulate premises, then acknowledged the fact that Khashoggi was killed, then arrested 18 people who were involved in the incident. Saudi authorities, who refused President Erdoğan’s request to try these 18 individuals in Turkey including senior officials, now sent chief public prosecutor al-Mojeb to Turkey. The investigation conducted by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to solve the Khashoggi murder has also been underway.

What does Saudi CP al-Mojeb’s meeting with the Istanbul CPP and on-site examination at the consulate at this stage mean in legal terms? Does the Saudi CP’s stepping in mean that the Khashoggi murder can be solved?

International criminal law professor Feridun Yenisey wants the arrival of the Saudi prosecutor in Istanbul be found legally ‘natural.’ Yenisey states that such cooperation and dialogue are allowed not only by international treaties but also by agreements signed between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, adding “Yet the whole point is the degree to which whether the confidentiality of the investigation will be preserved or not. The evidence should not be made very open. Information can be shared with the Saudi prosecutor without infringing upon the right to a fair trial.”

Criminal law professor Assoc. Prof. Olgun Değirmenci further explains Yenisey’s arguments. Değirmenci says, “Saudi Arabia has the right to exercise its own criminal jurisdiction. It can collect evidence at the consulate and confer with the Turkish prosecutor; both granted by Turkey’s authorization.” Değirmenci reminds us of the fact that Saudi Arabia has arrested 18 persons who were allegedly linked with the murder of Khashoggi and tried to prosecute them while adding that a request has been rendered to try these 18 individuals in Turkey as Turkish authorities have doubts that their Saudi counterparts would conduct ‘an effective investigation.’

According to Değirmenci, Saudi Arabia has made a counter-move against Turkey’s ‘suspenseful, doubtful approach’ by sending CP al-Mojeb to Turkey. Değirmenci states, “Saudi Arabia is now attempting to send a message that it did not cover up the matter and will be pressing the issue. Yet the doubts as to whether it will conduct an effective investigation into the matter are on the rise in the whole world in spite of this message,” explaining the reasons underlying the situation as “At this point the principles of international politics are on, not those of criminal law.”

RISKY POLITICS

Khashoggi’s remains have not been found yet despite the European halt of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, regular calls by the US President Trump to the Saudi authorities to solve the murder, and Turkey’s declaration reaching the level it ‘feels indebted’ for the solving of the murder.

How do the principles of international politics work at this point? Along what kind of political lines do states move on the Turkey-US-Saudi Arabia and Europe route?

Political scientist Prof. Ahmet Kasım Han of Altınbaş University states that the whole world clearly sees that the future of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman hangs on the King’s lips and the dose of pressure exerted by the US President Trump on Saudi authorities. Han says that this is the reason why Prince Salman has recently been underlining the future relations and close links between Turkey and Saudi Arabia more, adding “Turkey has been able to maintain a certain degree of balance in the Khashoggi murder investigation without upsetting its relationship with Saudi Arabia as well.” Han argues that Saudi Arabia would have easily trivialized the investigation and covered up the murder without Turkey’s pressure, stating “Yet Turkey did not let Saudi Arabia in this sense, it was successful in managing the crisis.” Han believes that Turkey has also played a role in US expressing its expectation for a transparent investigation to be conducted by Saudi Arabia.

Retired Ambassador Faruk Loğoğlu, on the other hand, remarks that Turkey has torn into Prince Salman, claiming “It is one thing to go after an incident, another thing to target someone. The King will openly look out for the Prince and will be able to pin the Khashoggi murder on Turkey. This is the risk.” Turkey might be put up against the wall since targeting someone based on presumption of guilt although all signs in the murder point Prince Salman and although Turkey shares this assumption, predicts Loğoğlu.

THREE STORIES IN THE KHASHOGGI MURDER

According to Loğoğlu, the Khashoggi murder has three different accounts including that of the Saudi authorities, Trump’s, and Turkey’s. “Saudi Arabia’s story has been constantly altered; now some senior officials are held liable” says Loğoğlu who believes that Trump wants to manage the Khashoggi crisis ‘without really delving into it’ until the forthcoming midterm congressional elections on November 6. Loğoğlu argues that “Turkey has been conducting the incident on a higher pitch and claims that it will do everything including meeting with the Saudi prosecutor. But these three stories will at one point converge in a way so as not to contradict one another and it will be clearly seen that international politics gets ahead of international law.”

American secret service CIA’s Director Gina Haspel also visited Turkey to obtain information about the investigation.

Turkey wanted 18 suspects who were arrested by the Saudi authorities on account of the Khashoggi murder to be extradited. Saudi authorities, however, denied this request stating that the suspects would stand trial in Saudi Arabia.

Turkish police investigating the Khashoggi murder searched the consulate premises and the residence. A consulate vehicle parked at an auto park in Istanbul was also searched. Although Saudi Arabia acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed at the consulate, the fate of Khashoggi’s remains is still unknown.

Translation: Devrim Kılıçer