Jamal Khashoggi: Hundreds of mourners hold burial ceremony for Saudi journalist without his body

'The fact that we performed funeral prayers does not mean that we will give up asking questions about what happened to his body'

Borzou Daragahi
Istanbul
Friday 16 November 2018 16:20 GMT
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Funeral prayers held in Istanbul for murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Hundreds gathered beneath a grey, rainy sky for a funeral service to mark the passing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a historical mosque in Istanbul on Friday, praying before an empty slab of marble where his missing body should have lain.

Khashoggi’s friends, colleagues, political fellow travellers as well as local and international media, crowded into the courtyard of the 15th-century Fatih Mosque on Istanbul’s European side, to hold a jenaziya; the traditional Muslim prayer held before burial.

Similar ceremonies were held in Mecca and Medina to mark the passing of the 59-year-old Washington Post columnist. Khashoggi’s sons, in an interview with CNN, asked Saudi authorities to reveal the location of his body, which has yet to be recovered.

Khashoggi was killed on 2 October by a team of Saudi security officials dispatched from Riyadh to confront him in the consulate in Istanbul. On Thursday, Saudi chief prosecutor Saud al-Mujeb announced that 11 of the 21 suspects detained in the Khashoggi murder had been indicted and that five would face the death penalty.

Mourners gather before an empty funeral slab to perform an absentia burial ceremony for Jamal Khashoggi (Tara Todras-Whitehill)
Mourners gather before an empty funeral slab to perform an absentia burial ceremony for Jamal Khashoggi (Tara Todras-Whitehill) (Photos Tara Todras-Whitehill)

He also absolved Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful 33-year-old heir to the Saudi throne, of culpability in what he described as a planned kidnapping operation that turned into a murder.

Few at the ceremony on Friday bought the Saudi narrative.

“We will continue to search for the truth,” Yasin Aktay, a friend of Mr Khashoggi and an adviser to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told those assembled.

You have to hide as an animal and go to sleep, and forget your dream about freedom 

Nouredin Abdul-Hafez, Egyptian journalist living in exile in Istanbul 

“We are not looking for vengeance while searching for the truth,” he added. “We are only pursuing justice. The fact that we performed funeral prayers does not mean that we will give up asking questions about what happened to his body.”

Some came from abroad to pay their respects.

“It’s a way for me to protest and say that I don’t agree with what happened to him,” said Ishraq Achouri, 25-year-old engineer from Montpellier, France. “[Khashoggi] represents freedom of expression.”

People present at the funeral included friends, colleagues and members of the media
People present at the funeral included friends, colleagues and members of the media (Tara Todras-Whitehill)

“Why has Jamal been killed? I am looking for an answer,” said Nouredin Abdul-Hafez, a 55-year-old Egyptian journalist living in exile in Istanbul.

Khashoggi’s murder has terrified Arabs who’ve found a measure of refuge in Turkey, which supported many of the 2011 uprisings across the region.

“This is the language now,” Mr Abdul-Hafez said of Khashoggi’s murder. “It’s your life against your opinions. Your life against your words. You have to keep silent. You have to hide as an animal and go to sleep, and forget your dream about freedom.”

Khashoggi was an opponent of Prince Mohammed, who has strong ties to Western governments including the White House, who view him as a cornerstone for both an Israeli-Palestinian “peace plan” they hope to unveil and a confrontation with Iran, which they have aggressively promoted.

NBC reported late Thursday that White House officials floated a plan to hand an exiled Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, back to Ankara in exchange for easing pressure on Saudi Arabia for the killing.

Mr Gulen’s religious movement has been accused of backing a 2016 coup attempt that left hundreds dead and threatened the country’s stability. But Turkish officials said they would never consider such a deal.

“Turkey’s pending request for Fetullah Gulen’s extradition from the United States and the investigation into Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder are two separate issues,” a senior Turkish official said in a statement distributed to journalists.

“At no point did Turkey offer to hold back on the Khashoggi investigation in return for Fetullah Gulen’s extradition. We have no intention to intervene in the Khashoggi investigation in return for any political or legal favour.”

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