İrem UZUN -TDO- A trial in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi opened Friday in a Turkish court, though none of the 20 defendants charged in the murder, all nationals of Saudi Arabia, were in attendance.

Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Those being tried include two former top aides to Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi was a vocal critic of the prince. Saudi Arabia carried out a separate trial over the killing that was heavily criticized as incomplete. The trial in Istanbul follows an international outcry over the murder, which tarnished the prince's reputation. Turkish prosecutors accuse the former deputy head of Saudi intelligence, Ahmed al-Asiri, and the royal court's media adviser Saud al-Qahtani of having led the operation and instructed a Saudi hit team. The other 18 defendants are accused of having suffocated Khashoggi, whose remains have not been found. Turkish officials say his body was dismembered and removed to an unknown site. Ankara has repeatedly called for the suspects to be extradited and tried in Turkey where the crime took place. Riyadh has not complied with the request.

The Saudi government has presented shifting stories about Khashoggi's fate in the months following his death. Initially Saudi officials denied any knowledge of the journalist's whereabouts, then shifted to arguing that a group of rogue operators carried out the murder without the involvement of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In December 2019, 11 unnamed suspects were put on trial in Saudi Arabia, but the proceedings were opaque and the defendants' identities were not made public. Eight people were found guilty of charges related to Khashoggi's death, five of whom were sentenced to death. In a report last year, United Nations special rapporteur Agnes Callamard concluded that Saudi Arabia was responsible under international law for the "deliberate, premeditated execution" of Khashoggi, and called for an investigation into the role of the Crown Prince.

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