Saud al-Qahtani, the former aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury over his suspected role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has not attended the trial nor appeared in any of the four court sessions convened since January in secretive hearings in Saudi Arabia.
This is despite the kingdom pledging to bring those responsible for the murder of Khashoggi to justice.
The Saudi public prosecutor indicted 11 unnamed suspects in November, including five who could face the death penalty on charges of "ordering and committing the crime," but al-Qahtani is not among the 11 suspects on trial despite two regional intelligence sources who told Reuters weeks after the killing that al-Qahtani oversaw Khashoggi's murder and dismemberment by giving orders via Skype to a team of security and intelligence operatives.
The CIA and some Western countries believe MBS ordered the killing, which Saudi officials deny. Despite the international community's demands to restore a credible investigation and trial, Riyadh has refused to cooperate with a U.N. inquiry, rejecting it as interference in its internal affairs.
Khashoggi, a Saudi national, disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to receive paperwork for marriage. Istanbul's chief prosecutor's office later revealed that once inside, Khashoggi was immediately strangled and then dismembered, presumably by a 15-member Saudi hit squad that arrived in Istanbul and was at the consulate during the journalist's visit. All of these individuals have since left Turkey and were later arrested by Saudi authorities. Initially denying and later downplaying the incident as an accidental killing in a fistfight, almost three weeks after the disappearance, Riyadh finally admitted that Khashoggi was murdered in a premeditated action but denied any involvement by the royal family. The incident was blamed on lower-level officials, including the five who are now facing the death penalty over their involvement. Despite more than five months passing since his assassination, the whereabouts of his body remain unknown.