About this blog: IPI member and representative İpek Yezdani attended the opening of the Jamal Khashoggi murder trial on July 3, 2020 in Istanbul. This is her account of the trial’s first day.

It has been one year and nine months since the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed by a team of Saudi agents inside the Saudi kingdom’s consulate in İstanbul.

His body was dismembered and dissolved in such a way that his body has never been found by the police.

Now, 20 Saudi nationals have gone on trial in absentia in Turkey for the first time for the murder of Khashoggi on October 20, 2018.

There has been a great interest in the trial from international media. An army of journalists was waiting outside the Istanbul’s Caglayan courthouse while the witnesses were giving their testimonies inside the courtroom.

International trial observers also included U.N. Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, RSF (Reporters Without Borders) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu and International Press Institute (IPI) representative İpek Yezdani.

The fiancée of Khashoggi, Hatice Cengiz, who is involved in the case as a complainant, was the first to speak during the trial.

She told the court about her discussions with Khashoggi that led them to apply for papers to the Saudi Consulate.

Cengiz said during the Khashoggi’s second visit to the consulate, she felt the biggest fear in her life when consulate staff told her on the phone, “I checked, but found nobody inside.”

“I didn’t lose just a husband but a meaningful future and hope in many areas”, she added.

Several other witnesses including two drivers and a cleaning lady working at the Saudi consulate and the residence of the Consul-General also gave their testimonies.

Some accounts of the witnesses were disturbing. A technical worker at the Consulate, Zeki Demir, testified that he was called to the consulate to light up the tandoor on during the days around when Khashoggi went missing: “There were five or six people there. There was an atmosphere of panic. They asked me to light up the tandoor. I lit up the tandoor and I joked saying that if you fall in the tandoor then you will become kebabs. Then I left.”

The trial was postponed to November 24, when further witness testimony will be heard.