The son of Jamal Khashoggi announced that his family has forgiven the Washington Post journalist’s killers on Friday, in a surprise gesture that Saudi activists believe was secured by multi-million dollar payouts and intense pressure from the Kingdom’s authorities.
In a statement on Friday, Salah Khashoggi wrote: “We, sons of the martyr Jamal Khashoggi, announce that we forgive those who killed our father.”
He added: “On this virtuous night of this holy month, we recall the words of God Almighty in his holy book: 'The repayment of bad actions, is one equivalent to it, But whoever pardons and makes reconciliation, his reward lies with God. He does not love the unjust.'”
Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was kidnapped, killed and dismembered by Saudi agents when he visited the Saudi embassy in Istanbul to obtain paperwork to marry his fiancée in October 2018.
It has been alleged that Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, had personally ordered his assassination, though he vehemently denies this and says the murder was carried out by rogue agents without his knowledge.
Saudi activists claimed on Friday that the family’s decision to pardon Mr Khashoggi was made following intense pressure by the Saudi authorities, which is paying out vast sums of compensation to the family each month.
“They are completely under the hand of MbS,” claimed the exiled, London-based Saudi activist Alia Abu Tayeh Al-Huwaiti, referring to the Crown Prince by his initials. “They are terrified of the government and will say whatever he wants them to.”
It is understood that the four Khashoggi children are receiving monthly payments of more than 30,000 Saudi riyals (£8,000) in “blood money” under Sharia law, and have each been given properties worth at least £3m.
But activists say the family has little choice but to accept the money and follow the Saudi authorities instructions, or otherwise face adverse consequences.
However, Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, has reacted with anger to the son’s announcement, insisting that “no one has the right to pardon his killers.”
Salah Khashoggi’s decision to pardon his killers may lead to their death sentences being commuted under Saudi law.
The son has frequently issued statements supporting the Saudi authorities’ investigation of the murder, in contrast with his father’s Turkey-based fiancée who has become an outspoken critic of the Kingdom.
In December, Saudi Arabia sentenced five men to death for the murder. Three men also received a total of 24 years in prison for covering up the crime. None of the 11 who went on trial have been named.
The killing has greatly harmed Saudi Arabia's reputation. A leaked CIA report in 2018 claimed with “medium to high confidence” that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi to be killed.
Last October, Khashoggi's fiancee told The Telegraph that the Crown Prince's acceptance of “responsibility” for the murder was an attempt to draw a line under his killing and make the world look away.
“The Crown Prince’s comments are a general tactic to silence the case, and quieten the media,” she said.