The loneli­est Ra­madan

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY KAREEM FAHIM kareem.fahim@wash­post.com

So­cial dis­tanc­ing brings iso­la­tion in the Is­lamic holy month that usu­ally over­flows with ac­tiv­ity.

The sons of slain jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi posted a mes­sage on so­cial me­dia early Fri­day say­ing that they have for­given their fa­ther’s killers, a dec­la­ra­tion that could al­low Saudi au­thor­i­ties to com­mute the death sen­tences of five Saudi of­fi­cials con­victed of Khashoggi’s mur­der.

The state­ment was posted on the Twit­ter ac­count of Salah Khashoggi, the jour­nal­ist’s el­dest son, who lives in Saudi Ara­bia. “We, sons of the mar­tyr Ja­mal Khashoggi, an­nounce that we for­give those who killed our fa­ther,” said the mes­sage, which cited a tra­di­tion of grant­ing par­dons dur­ing the holy month of Ra­madan.

The Saudi jus­tice sys­tem al­lows fam­i­lies of vic­tims in some cap­i­tal cases to grant clemency to con­victed killers. There had been widespread spec­u­la­tion that Khashoggi’s chil­dren, who have re­frained from crit­i­ciz­ing the Saudi lead­er­ship, would take such a step, though it was not clear whether their ex­pres­sion of for­give­ness was ex­tended will­ingly or co­erced.

Khashoggi’s fi­ancee, Hat­ice Cen­giz, crit­i­cized the Khashoggi fam­ily state­ment on Fri­day. “No one has the right to par­don his killers,” she wrote on Twit­ter. “I and oth­ers will not stop un­til we get #Jus­tice­for­ja­mal.”

Khashoggi, a veteran jour­nal­ist who con­tributed col­umns to The Wash­ing­ton Post, was killed in the Saudi Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul in Oc­to­ber 2018 when he went to col­lect doc­u­ments that would al­low him to re­marry. The killers were Saudi gov­ern­ment agents, dis­patched to Turkey on the or­ders of top ad­vis­ers to Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, ac­cord­ing to Turk­ish and Saudi pros­e­cu­tors.

Khashoggi’s body was dis­mem­bered as part of a blun­der­ing at­tempt by the agents to cover up the killing, pros­e­cu­tors said. The

Saudi gov­ern­ment ini­tially de­nied any knowl­edge of the killing and later called it a rogue op­er­a­tion. The crown prince de­nied any ad­vance knowl­edge of the plot, even though the CIA con­cluded with “medium to high con­fi­dence” that Mo­hammed had or­dered Khashoggi’s killing.

Saudi pros­e­cu­tors said in De­cem­ber that five uniden­ti­fied peo­ple had been sen­tenced to death in con­nec­tion with the mur­der af­ter a trial in Riyadh, the Saudi cap­i­tal. Three other peo­ple were sen­tenced to jail terms to­tal­ing 24 years.

The ver­dicts were crit­i­cized by hu­man rights groups be­cause of the trial’s se­crecy. Two se­nior of­fi­cials who were im­pli­cated in the killing, in­clud­ing Saud alQah­tani, the crown prince’s me­dia ad­viser, were cleared of wrong­do­ing, pros­e­cu­tors said.

Even as the trial was held, the Saudi royal court was pre­par­ing for a pri­vate set­tle­ment with Khashoggi’s four chil­dren and hop­ing to en­sure they re­frained from crit­i­ciz­ing the king­dom’s lead­er­ship, ac­cord­ing to cur­rent and for­mer Saudi of­fi­cials.

To that end, the chil­dren were given mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar homes and monthly five-fig­ure pay­ments as part of a com­pen­sa­tion pack­age that was ap­proved by King Sal­man soon af­ter Khashoggi’s killing, of­fi­cials said.

Af­ter the pay­ments were re­ported by The Post last year, Salah Khashoggi, a banker, char­ac­ter­ized them as “acts of gen­eros­ity” by Saudi Ara­bia’s leader and said they were “not ad­mis­sion of guilt or scan­dal.” He said that “no set­tle­ment dis­cus­sion has been or is dis­cussed.”

SAUDI PRESS Agency/as­so­ci­ated PRESS

Salah Khashoggi, left, a son of Ja­mal Khashoggi, with Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man in Riyadh, Saudi Ara­bia, in 2018.

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