Other officials named in the complaint include Saud al-Qahtani, the heir to the throne’s chief aide, and Major-General Ahmed al-Asiri, a former deputy intelligence chief. Both men have been charged with “organizational or executive responsibility” in the deaths of Hashoghi, a Saudi journalist and US resident who was brutally murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
The statement comes days after the Biden administration published an unclassified intelligence assessment concluding that the heir to the throne had approved the operation to “kill or capture”
Other officials include Mohammed al-Otaibi, who served as Saudi consul general in Istanbul at the time of Hashoghi’s death, and Maher Mutreb, a spy who claims to have led the team sent to intercept the journalist in Istanbul.
“The bottom line is that proper justice for Jamal has yet to be served,” said Christophe Deloir, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, also known by the French acronym RSF. Delour said the new intelligence findings reinforced his organization’s work.
Equally important, Deloir added, are the other 34 journalists detained by the Saudi government. “The RSF’s message to those who remain silent, imprison, kill or otherwise target journalists is that they will not get away with it,” he said.
The organization’s charges include unlawful murder, torture, enforced disappearance and persecution.
The German prosecutor will now decide whether to launch a prosecutorial investigation. RSF officials say they believe Germany is in favor of such a move, as its laws allow the prosecution of certain crimes committed outside Germany. But no action is guaranteed, and in the past the German authorities have refused to undertake high-level foreign persecution.
Following the release of intelligence last week, the Biden administration announced new visa restrictions related to extraterritorial attacks on journalists or dissidents, added to earlier sanctions against Saudi officials, and announced a “recalibration” of US relations with its longtime partner. But he did not stop imposing any punishment on the powerful 35-year-old heir to the throne.
This decision was met with immediate criticism by some MPs and activists. Administration officials defended their actions, saying the United States usually does not sanction leaders from friendly countries and stresses the value of US defense and intelligence cooperation with the kingdom.
The administration also announced a new focus on Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been accused of civilian casualties in its war against Iran-linked insurgents, and said it would suspend certain arms sales to the kingdom.
The Saudi government has rejected the findings of the intelligence report, the publication of which was another break with the Trump administration. The kingdom’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the report contained “inaccurate information and conclusions”.
Although lawmakers, informed by intelligence in the weeks following the assassination, described the heir’s responsibility as iron, President Donald Trump expressed skepticism. His administration also opposed a congressional mandate to release a declassified version of the intelligence assessment.
The Saudi government conducted a largely covert trial that led to the sentencing of a group of people to murder, with sentences of up to 20 years in prison. Both Kahtani and Asiri were acquitted, despite the fact that Saudi prosecutors said they were important in the plot that led to Hashoghi’s assassination.
How the German prosecutor would respond to the case was not immediately clear. In 2002, the country incorporated the principle of universal jurisdiction into its penal code, which means that crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes can be prosecuted in its courts, regardless of where these acts were committed. The idea is to ensure that the most serious crimes – those that affect the international community as a whole – do not go unpunished.
German law is considered one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the world. But in the past, prosecutors have sometimes refrained from investigating cases in which there is no German connection, or have judged that foreign officials are immune from prosecution.
In 2003, the federal prosecutor decided not to investigate former Chinese President Jiang Zemin on the grounds that he had immunity as a former head of state. He also cited immunity as he refused to investigate Uzbek intelligence chief Rustam Inoyatov, former Afghan military leader and MP Abdurashid Dostum and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
Authorities can use their discretion not to prosecute a crime without a German connection to avoid overburdening the judiciary.
If a case has no connection with Germany, the legal principle is to give priority to international courts or prosecutors in the countries of origin of victims or offenders or where the crime is alleged to have taken place, according to a briefing by Open Society Foundations. for similar cases in Germany.
In a landmark case, two Syrians accused of crimes committed while working for the Syrian intelligence apparatus were brought to justice in Germany, where they both sought asylum.
The younger of the two, Eyad al-Garib, was sentenced to four years in prison last week for his role in gathering protesters and sending them to a Syrian detention center, where prosecutors said they knew they would be tortured.
Anwar Raslan, who is accused of crimes against humanity, 58 murders, rapes and sexual violence, continues to stand trial.
Morris reports from Berlin.