Dec 23, 2019

Saudis sentence 5 to death over Khashoggi's murder

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman. Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced five people to death for the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and three others were sentenced to prison, AP reports.

Why it matters: The Saudis still deny that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had any knowledge or involvement in the assassination, despite the CIA concluding last year that he gave the order.

  • A UN investigator failed to find a "smoking gun" that explicitly incriminated MBS, but said the mission required "significant government coordination, resources and finances" and recommended a further probe, Axios' Orion Rummler and Rashaan Ayesh reported in June.

The big picture: "The kingdom did not provide the names of those sentenced, but it said that Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to Prince Mohammed whom the United States imposed sanctions on over the killing, had not been tried because of a lack of evidence against him," the N.Y. Times reports.

Between the lines: The verdicts followed an eye-popping effort by the kingdom this weekend to showcase societal changes: Instagram stars, former Victoria's Secret models and Hollywood actors converged on Riyadh for a three-day concert, per AP.

  • The rave was quite a pivot from just three years ago, when religious police would storm restaurants playing music and harass women in malls for showing their face or wearing red nail polish.

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