Vigil in front of the Saudi Embassy to mark the anniversary of the killing
Vigil in front of the Saudi Embassy to mark the anniversary of the killing Reuters

Twenty Saudi nationals are being tried in absentia in Turkey for involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the BBC reports. Khashoggi was working for the Washington Post at the time of his murder.

Khashoggi was killed in October 2018, at some point after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in order to obtain necessary documents for his upcoming wedding. His fiancee was waiting outside; Khashoggi never emerged.

Those being tried include two former top aides to Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as well as several Western governments, believe the murder was ordered by the Crown Prince, but he has so far denied involvement, and the Saudi regime officially calls the murder a "rogue operation." Khashoggi was an outspoken critic of the Prince, who is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

Turkish prosecutors are accusing Ahmed al-Asiri, former deputy head of Saudi intelligence, and Saud al-Qahtani, the royal court's media adviser, of having planned the operation and then instructing a Saudi hit team to carry it out. The other 18 defendants are accused of having helped to suffocate Khashoggi, whose remains have yet to be located. According to Turkish officials, Khashoggi's body was dismembered and removed to an unknown site.

In 2019, a Saudi court sentenced five people to death and three to prison over Khashoggi's killing. However, that trial was secretive and the defendants were not named. As a result, the proceedings were heavily criticized by other countries.