A Turkish prosecutor called on Thursday for the trial in Istanbul of Saudi suspects over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to be halted and transferred to Saudi authorities, a move which comes as Turkey seeks to mend ties with Riyadh.
Turkish prosecutor requests transfer of Khashoggi trial to Saudi Arabia
Khashoggi's killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul four years ago triggered a global outcry and put pressure on Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
A US intelligence report released a year ago said the prince had approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi, but the Saudi government denied any involvement by the crown prince and rejected the report's findings. The Turkish court also previously rejected requests to add the report to the case file.
Turkish officials said they believe Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the crown prince, was killed and his body dismembered in an operation which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said had been ordered at the "highest levels" of the Saudi government.
The killing and subsequent accusations strained ties between the two regional powers and led to an unofficial Saudi boycott of Turkish goods, which has slashed Ankara's exports to the kingdom by 90%.
Erdogan now seeks better ties with states which had become bitter rivals in recent years, including Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Israeli and UAE leaders have visited Ankara in recent months, but progress with Cairo and Riyadh has been slower. Erdogan said last month he hoped to take "concrete steps" with Saudi Arabia soon.
The Istanbul court where the 26 Saudi suspects have been on trial in absentia for nearly two years said on Thursday it would ask for the Justice Ministry's opinion on the request to transfer proceedings, and set the next hearing for April 7.
In 2020, Saudi Arabia jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years for Khashoggi's murder. At the time Ankara said the verdict fell short of expectations, but has since softened its tone as part of a broader attempt to repair ties.
The Turkish court asked in November for details from Saudi authorities -- who had not named the suspects who were sentenced in Riyadh -- to avoid defendants being pu