Saudi Arabia convicted five people for the gruesome killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year in Turkey. Khashoggi, a fierce critic of Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler and Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. "The court issued death sentences on five men who directly took part in the killing," the public prosecutor said in a statement on Monday.

As per reports, high-ranking officials in the Saudi government, who had been accused of having complicity in the murder, have been acquitted. It remains to be seen if the sentencing of five unnamed people will dispel doubts that the Saudi regime was aware of the plot to assassinate the Washington Post columnist.

Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi YouTube grab

No evidence against high-ranking royal insider

Saudi prosecutors had earlier said that the deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, had directed the sensational killing, which was ordered by royal court's media chief Saud al-Qahtani. However, Qahtani, who was investigated, has been let off on finding no evidence against him. Of the 11 convicts, five were sentenced to death and three to jail terms totalling 24 years.

Importantly, the verdict also dismissed the theory that the killing of Khashoggi was well planned and executed with precision. "We found that Khashoggi's murder was not premeditated," the statement by the chief prosecutor said.

The killing of the dissident journalist had caused an international uproar as early reports showed that the abduction, torture and the murder were orchestrated by a very high-ranking officer in the Saudi intelligence apparatus who had close access to Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

Killed in seven minutes and dissolved in acid

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman Reuters

Media reports in the early days after the crime cited a Turkish official as saying that Khashoggi's body was cut into pieces after he was killed on October 2. The leak from the Turkish officials came after Ankara sent experts to the Saudi consulate to carry out inspections. Later reports said Saudi agents had disposed of Khashoggi's body in acid.

Middle East Eye reported that an audio recording of the torture revealed that Khashoggi was killed in seven minutes. The Saudi kill squad's intention was to execute Khashoggi summarily, not to question him. Khashoggi, who had arrived at the consulate to obtain papers to facilitate his marriage with Turkish girlfriend Hatice, was in the Consul General's room when he was grabbed by the squad.

The journalist was taken to the next room and thrown onto a table. The sources said 'horrendous screams' were heard from the room even as the 15-member squad started torturing him. The screams stopped after Khashoggi was injected with an unidentified substance.