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Turkey confirms hand over of Saudi critic, Khashoggi’s murder trial to Saudi Arabia, rights group revolts

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A Turkish court on Thursday confirmed a halt to the trial in absentia of 26 suspects linked to the killing of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi and its transfer to Riyadh, a decision that has angered rights groups.

The 59-year-old journalist was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, in a gruesome murder that shocked the world.

A Turkish court began the trial in 2020 with relations tense between the two Sunni Muslim regional powers.

But with Turkey desperate for investment to help pull it out of economic crisis, Ankara has sought to heal the rift with Riyadh.

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The judge told the court: “We decided to halt and hand over the case to Saudi Arabia.”

The court decision comes almost a week after Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that he would approve a Turkish prosecutor’s request to hand the case over to Saudi Arabia, at the latter’s demand.

The prosecutor said the case was “dragging” because, as the defendants were foreigners, the court’s orders could not be carried out.

Defence lawyer Ali Ceylan told the court on Thursday that there would not be a fair trial in Saudi Arabia.

“Let’s not entrust the lamb to the wolf,” he said, using a Turkish saying.

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Another defence lawyer, Gokmen Baspinar, said that the justice ministry’s move was “against the law.”

“There is no prosecution going on in Saudi Arabia at the moment,” he said. “Saudi authorities have concluded the trial and acquitted many suspects.”

He said the decision to hand over the case to Riyadh would be tantamount to a “breach of Turkish sovereignty” and “an example of irresponsibility against Turkish people”.

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The decision has deeply angered rights groups.

The Istanbul tribunal “agreed to transfer the case to the Saudi authorities — in one sentence, just like that. Didn’t even bother to state the lawyers’ requests are rejected,” Milena Buyum, of Amnesty International, said.

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She tweeted: “Appalling and clearly political decision.”

Five people were sentenced to death by the kingdom over Khashoggi’s killing, but a Saudi court in September 2020 overturned the sentences, handing jail terms of up to 20 years to eight unnamed defendants following secretive legal proceedings.

Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz, who was present at the hearing on Thursday, said that she would appeal the decision.

Turkey “is not ruled by a family like in Saudi Arabia. We have a justice system that addresses citizens’ grievances,” she told journalists outside Istanbul’s main court.

“We will appeal the decision in line with our legal system”.

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Speaking to AFP, she vowed to “continue to fight. Whoever gives up has given up. I will continue. Sometimes the legal battle itself is more important than the results.”

To Riyadh’s dismay, Turkey pressed ahead with the Khashoggi case and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had, at the time, said the order to kill him came from the “highest levels” of government.

Subsequently, Saudi Arabia sought unofficially to put pressure on Turkey’s economy, with a boycott on Turkish imports.

Last year, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Riyadh to mend fences with the kingdom.

Transferring the case to Riyadh removes the last obstacle to a normalisation of ties.

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In an interview with AFP in February, Cengiz urged Ankara to insist on justice despite the rapprochement with Saudi Arabia.

“In order for such a thing to not happen again…(Turkey) should not abandon this case,” she said.

Cengiz had been waiting outside the consulate for Khashoggi when he was murdered. He had gone there to obtain paperwork to marry her. His remains have never been found.

Erdogan has sought to improve ties with regional rivals including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in the face of increasing diplomatic isolation that has caused foreign investment to dry up — particularly from the West.

In January, he said he was planning a trip to Saudi Arabia as the economy went through a tumultuous period.

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Turkey’s annual inflation has soared to 61.1 percent, according to official data Monday.

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Crime

Union Bank keeps mum as EFCC arraigns employee over fraud (Photos)

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday arraigned a former employee of Union Bank, Abdulmalik Salau, and two others for cybercrime and money laundering involving about N1.403 billion.

The other accused persons are Ismaila Atumeyi and Ngene Dominic. EFCC announced the arrest of the defendants in November.

The anti-graft agency’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, said in a statement that the trio were arraigned before the trial judge, Tjinani Ringim, of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos.

They face 18 charges to which they all pleaded “not guilty” on Monday.

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Following their “not guilty” plea, the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, called for the commencement of their trial, a request he anchored on the provision of section 273 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).

“Therefore, we will, with all humility, ask your Lordship for the acceleration of this trial.

My Lord, Section 300 of the ACJA also expects the prosecution to give a very brief summary of the case it has against the defendants,” the lawyer said.

How defendants allegedly diverted bank’s N1.4billion’

Mr Oyedepo also informed the judge that the prosecution had lined up six witnesses to testify against the defendants.

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He said the prosecution would, through the witnesses, show to the court “how the defendants agreed among themselves to hack into the database of Union Bank Plc, transferred funds belonging to the bank and its customers and used the proceeds of this unlawful activity to acquire properties for themselves.”

He added that the prosecution would show how the third defendant, a former member of staff of Union Bank Plc, allegedly worked with the others and “succeeded in hacking into the database of the bank”

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He alleged that the defendants, in different instalments, moved over N1.4 billion into the accounts of FAV Oil and Gas Limited and Atus Homes Limited.

The prosecuting lawyer added: “The exhibits that the prosecution will tender include the documentary exhibit that shows that the sum of $480,000 was found in the possession of the third defendant and that the sum of N326, 400 million cash was found in a black Escalade car in the possession of first and second defendants.

“My lord, the case is such that, in its nature, requires the cooperation of both the prosecution and the defence team to see its expeditious determination.

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“I, therefore, urge your lordship, pending the determination of the case, to remand the defendants in a correctional facility, where adequately trained personnel will see to their welfare and wellbeing.”

EFCC alleged that part of the offences allegedly committed by the defendant was contrary to and punishable under section 16(1) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act, 2015.

Another of the offences was also said to violate section 18( a), 15 (2) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011, as amended and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.

Defence lawyers deny allegations, apply for bail

Responding to the prosecuting counsel, Bolaji Ayorinde, the lawyer representing the first and second defendants, Messrs Atumeyi and Dominic, said: “No iota of evidence has been admitted against the first and second defendants.

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The defendants having pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, Mr Ayorinde said “they are constitutionally and legally under the presumption of innocence until otherwise determined by the court.”

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The defence lawyer added:* “In order to further the presumption of innocence of the first and second defendants, we filed on November 30, 2022, an application for bail seeking your lordship’s admission to bail of the first and second defendants pending the hearing and determination of the charge against them.

“The prosecution has responded to the application by serving on the first and second defendants a counter filed on 5 December 2022.”
He said in ensuring an expeditious and speedy dispensation of the case, he was prepared to move the application for bail immediately.

The application for bail for the first and second defendants is ready for hearing. The summons for bail is dated November 30, 2022. Since it seeks admission of the defendants to bail in very liberal terms, the grounds of the application are well stated in the summons,” he said.

Mr Ayorinde, who described the offence as bailable, stated that the defendants, “who were arrested and detained as far back as November 1, 2022,” would not jump bail.

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He maintained that the “incarceration of the first and second defendants ought not to continue, even if on some terms. Their rights to bail have not been taken away; the charges preferred against them are bailable.”

The third defendant’s lawyer, Babatunde Ogunwo, also denied the allegations levelled against his client and “adopted “wholeheartedly” the argument of Mr Ayorinde.

EFCC’s lawyer, Mr Oyedepo, opposed the defendants’ bail applications.

“In the very unlikely event that the court disagrees with our submissions, we pray your lordship to impose such conditions that will secure the attendance of the defendants, particularly the first and second defendants whose applications are being argued.”

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The judge adjourned until Tuesday for ruling on the bail application of the first and second defendants.

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One year old boy drowns after falling into bucket of water in Anambra

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A boy, 1, has d!ed after falling into a bucket of water in Nnewi, Anambra state.

The child’s parents reportedly left him in the care of his siblings when the tragedy occurred on Saturday, Dec. 3.

The siblings were busy playing when the child made his way to buckets of water arranged outside and fell into one.

He was found too late.

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Videos shared online show loved ones praying for the boy to come back to life. No one is seen performing CPR in the video.

Sadly, the boy gave up the ghost.

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Men who refuse polygamy contributing to prostitution – Ned Nwoko

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A Nigerian lawyer and politician, Prince Chinedu Munir Nwoko, popularly known as Ned Nwoko, has accused men who do not marry more than one wife of contributing to immorality in society.

The former lawmaker, who stated this in his recent interview with the Guardian, urged Nigerian men to emulate the northern men by marrying more than one wife.

He said: “Many women are out there without a husband, especially in the southern part of the country, and there is a high level of prostitution. If the southern men emulate their northern counterparts by marrying more than one wife, that could probably change the situation.

“An average southerner may have one wife with girlfriends, and he is spending money on the girlfriends, sometimes even more than his wife.

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“For instance, the man, who has three wives, concentrate on them, every money he makes is spent on his family, and he is more likely not to have a girlfriend or concubines. The money those with several girlfriends spend on them is a gift, not an investment in the family.”

Nwoko, who has multiple wives, noted that he and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, are serving Nigeria by marrying many wives.

Ned, who further claimed to have the same background as Ooni, explained that their grandfathers were kings and had served Nigeria in that capacity. “And we are now also serving Nigeria by marrying many wives.”

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