DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The family of slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi announced Friday they have forgiven his Saudi killers, giving legal reprieve to the five government agents convicted of his murder who’d been sentenced to execution.
“We, the sons of the martyr Jamal Khashoggi, announce that we forgive those who killed our father as we seek reward from God Almighty,” wrote one of his sons, Salah Khashoggi, on Twitter.
Salah Khashoggi, who lives in Saudi Arabia and has received financial compensation from the royal court over the killing, explained that forgiveness was extended to the killers during the last nights of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in line with Islamic tradition to offer pardons in cases allowed by Islamic law.
The announcement was largely expected because the trial in Saudi Arabia left the door open for reprieve by ruling in December that the killing was not premeditated. That finding was in line with the Saudi government’s official explanation of Khashoggi's slaying, which has been called into question internationally.
Saudi media outlet Arab News sought to clarify Friday that the announcement made by Khashoggi’s sons spares the convicted killers from execution, but does not mean they will go unpunished.
The grisly killing and dismemberment of Khashoggi's body in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in late 2017 as his Turkish fiance waited for him outside drew international condemnation and cast a cloud of suspicion over Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The body has never been found.
Prior to his killing, Khashoggi had written critically of the crown prince in multiple columns for the Washington Post and had been living in exile for about a year, fearing he would be detained if he returned to Saudi Arabia as part of a wider crackdown on writers, activists and critics.
After offering shifting accounts of what transpired, and under intense international and Turkish pressure, the kingdom eventually settled on the explanation that Khashoggi had been killed by Saudi agents in an operation masterminded by two of the crown prince’s top aides, who have since been removed from their posts.
The kingdom denies the crown prince had any knowledge of the operation. His critics, however, point to U.S. intelligence reports that say an operation like this could not have happened without his knowledge.
President Donald Trump has defended U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia, despite Congressional pressure and a Senate resolution blaming the crown prince for the murder.
In addition to the five who had been sentenced to execution, the Saudi trial concluded that three other people were found guilty of covering up the crime and were sentenced to a combined 24 years in prison.
In all, 11 people were put on trial in Saudi Arabia over the killing. The names of those found guilty were not disclosed by the government.