The supposed ruling by a court in Riyadh was utterly lacking in transparency. The identities of those convicted were not reported, nor was the crime they committed detailed. Two senior officials identified by a Saudi prosecutor as organizers of the 15-member hit team that assaulted Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul — deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, a senior adviser to Mohammed bin Salman — were cleared. It is not even clear that those convicted, who were said to have been sentenced to terms of between seven and 20 years, are actually imprisoned.
Nearly two years after Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, the location of his remains has not been disclosed to his fiancee. The manner of his death — suffocation, followed by dismemberment with a bone saw — is known only because of an investigation carried out by a United Nations rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, who was given access to Turkish surveillance recordings. Ms. Callamard reported that the murder was premeditated and that Mohammed bin Salman was culpable for it; the CIA concluded with “medium to high” certainty that the Saudi ruler ordered the hit.
Ms. Callamard tweeted Monday that the reported verdicts were “a parody of justice” that “carry no legal or moral legitimacy,” because “the high-level officials who organized and embraced the execution . . . have walked free from the start.” But the supposed punishments were not meant to satisfy her. Instead, they are intended to provide a fig leaf for democratic leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Boris Johnson, allowing them to honor Mohammed bin Salman with their presence in Riyadh without appearing to condone the cold-blooded butchering of a renowned journalist.
President Trump requires no such excuse; he long ago absolved Mohammed bin Salman of responsibility, despite the report of the CIA and the fact that Khashoggi was a U.S. resident. As The Post’s Joby Warrick reported, the social media campaign the Saudi regime conducted against Khashoggi while he was living in Northern Virginia — not to mention his murder — ought to trigger a ban on U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia under a provision of the Arms Control Export Act. But the Trump administration has continued to supply Saudi Arabia with arms, including for its bombing in Yemen, circumventing the law as well as other congressional restrictions.
The absence of justice in the Khashoggi case won’t prevent Mr. Trump from attending the Riyadh summit. But it ought to give pause to those G-20 leaders who still seek to uphold human rights as a pillar of international affairs.