Suspects in Khashoggi's killing brought before Saudi court

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed after entering the consulate in Istanbul in October. AP

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed after entering the consulate in Istanbul in October. AP

At least five people are facing the death penalty over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, an occasional contributor to The Washington Post, had written columns critical of Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The statement also said prosecutors sent a request to Turkey for evidence that Ankara has collected over the October 2 killing of Mr Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

All 11 accused were present with their lawyers at the opening hearing in the capital, according to a statement by the attorney general carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor has said Khashoggi's alleged killers planned his death three days in advance.

Mr Khashoggi's body has yet to be found amid reports that it was given to a local "fixer" who dissolved it in acid. Under Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia has seen the arrest of business leaders, royals and activists while also recently granting women the right to drive. Both former officials have been sacked and both were slapped with sanctions by the US Treasury Department in mid-November.

The US Central Intelligence Agency has reportedly concluded that Prince Mohammed very likely ordered Khashoggi's murder.

"Maybe he did and maybe he didn't", Trump said of the crown prince's knowledge of the killing.

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But in November the Saudi attorney general ruled out any involvement by the young crown prince, whose reformist credentials overseas have been seriously tarnished by the killing.

His disappearance and apparent murder caused an worldwide outcry.

It was unclear whether Qahtani and Ahmad al-Assiri, two senior aides to Prince Mohammed initially implicated in Khashoggi's murder, were among those on trial.

Saudi officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"There is an huge amount of global interest in this trial, but also a lot of suspicion about whether those ultimately responsible for the crime will be held to account".

Saudi Arabia has rejected Turkey's demands to deport Saudi nationals saying the kingdom would not extradite suspected connected to the murder case.

But its requests have been repeatedly rebuffed by Riyadh.

The kingdom initially denied Mr Khashoggi was murdered but - under increasing worldwide condemnation - later changed its story and admitted the 59-year-old was killed as part of a "rogue operation".

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