ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court resumed a trial over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Tuesday, as a journalism watchdog described the case as "nearing deadlock" and said the hearing needed to include Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's role.
Khashoggi, a critic of Prince Mohammed, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. Turkish officials believe his body was dismembered and removed. His remains have not been found.
A U.S. intelligence report released in March said Prince Mohammed had approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi in Oct. 2018. The Saudi government has denied any involvement by the crown prince and rejected the report's findings.
While Washington imposed sanctions on some of those involved, it spared the crown prince himself.
Two requests by lawyers for Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's Turkish fiancee, to have the U.S. report added to the case in Turkey have been rejected by the court in previous sessions.
The Turkish court is trying 26 Saudis in absentia on various charges related to Khashoggi's murder. On Tuesday the court requested the Justice Ministry send a letter to Saudi Arabia, asking about those who were sentenced in a trial held in the Kingdom, so that they do not receive a punishment twice.
In September 2020, a Saudi court jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years over the killing in a trial critics said lacked transparency. None of the defendants was named.
Erol Onderoglu, representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said justice could not be served as a result of the trial if it did not include Prince Mohammed.
"Everyone knows that the judicial process will be symbolic as long as the defendants are not caught and returned to Turkey," he said, describing the case as "nearing deadlock."
Tensions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi's killing have led to an informal Saudi boycott of Turkish goods. But Ankara has softened its rhetoric and criticism of Riyadh and the two countries have been working to normalise ties after a series of phone calls between President Tayyip Erdogan and King Salman.
The improvement in relation comes as Turkey has been working to mend ties with other countries in the region, including the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
"The signs towards Turkey-Saudi relations getting closer are of course raising concern that the case could be moved into the shadows, could be pushed into the background," RSF's Onderoglu said.
The concerns had been raised by the Istanbul prosecutor's office not requesting the CIA report and the court not adding it to the case, he said.
The next hearing will be held on Feb. 24.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Daren Butler, William Maclean)