Suspects in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have attended their first court hearing, the Associated Press reports, citing Saudi state media.
Eleven suspects were at the hearing, the AP reports. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for five suspects.
The trial is the latest development in a case that has triggered a reckoning about U.S. support of Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen, as well as the financial influence of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
Khashoggi was a journalist writing for The Washington Post and living in self-imposed exile in the United States. He entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 and never emerged.
A CIA assessment concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the killing of Khashoggi. If convicted, the suspects may face the death penalty for carrying out official orders.
President Trump has pledged the U.S. will remain a “steadfast partner” to Saudi Arabia and cast doubt on the CIA conclusions,” NPR’s Scott Horsley reports.
“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t,” Trump said of the crown prince’s knowledge of the killing.
Still, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials believed to be involved in the act, NPR’s Jackie Northam reports.
U.S. senators have been outraged by the killing. A resolution banning U.S. military aircraft from providing in-flight fueling to “non-U.S. aircraft” conducting missions in the Yemen conflict passed with bipartisan support in December. The Senate also passed a resolution meant to hold Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the killing of Khashoggi, NPR’s Bill Chappell reports. Saudi Arabia has rejected that accusation.
Prosecutors have sent a request to Turkey for evidence in the killing, Aljazeera reports. Ankara has demanded the suspects face trial in Turkey, but Saudi Arabia refuses.
Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has said Khashoggi’s alleged killers planned his death three days in advance.
The prosecutors office said in November it had 21 suspects in custody, NPR’s Bill Chappell reports.