Saudi Arabia has sentenced five people to 20 years in prison for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, revising the initial death sentences which were handed out in 2019.
The latest verdicts issued by the Riyadh Criminal Court against the eight Saudi nationals on Monday bring an end to the case of the slain The Washington Post columnist and Saudi critic.
Another defendant received a 10-year sentence, while two others were given seven-year jail terms.
Family's response staves off executions
The kingdom initially tried 11 people in December of last year, sentencing five to death and ordering three others to serve lengthy prison terms for attempting to cover up the crime.
The trial, however, had concluded that the murder was not premeditated, paving the way for Salah Khashoggi, one of the slain journalist's sons, to announce in May that the family had forgiven his killers, which essentially allowed them to be pardoned from execution in accordance with Islamic law.
Salah Khashoggi lives in Saudi Arabia and has received financial compensation from the royal court for his father's killing.
Skepticism and outrage
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings who investigated Khashoggi's death, described on Twitter the rulings as another act "in this parody of justice."
Callamard also criticized the court for convicting "five hit men" while the "high-level officials who organized and embraced" the killing have escaped punishment. This means the verdicts have "no legal or moral legitimacy," she said. The UN official added it was unfair that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "has remained well protected against any kind of meaningful scrutiny in his country."
Khashoggi's Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, also slammed the outcome in a statement posted on Twitter: "The ruling handed down today in Saudi Arabia again makes a complete mockery of justice."
"The international community will not accept this farce," she added.
Read more: Can Saudi Arabia afford human rights abuses?
Outspoken critic of the Saudi regime
Jamal Khashoggi fled his homeland in September 2017 in the wake of a crackdown Prince Mohammed was beginning to unleash on human rights activists and those critical of his kingdom. The Saudi dissident then made his home in the United States, subsequently penning newspaper articles critical of the prince. He was particularly vocal in his disapproval of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.
On October 2, 2018, the 59-year-old entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey to obtain marriage papers, but was never seen leaving.
According to Turkish authorities, a team of Saudi nationals, including a forensic doctor and intelligence officers, flew into Istanbul and met Khashoggi at the consulate. They then killed him and dismembered his body, which has still not been found.
Riyadh said the murder was a "rogue" operation, but both the CIA and a United Nations special envoy have since blamed Prince Mohammed for the killing. The oil-rich kingdom has strongly refuted the charge.
jsi/dj (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)