RIYADH: The family members of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said on Friday they had forgiven the men who murdered their father, paving the way for a legal reprieve for five defendants sentenced to death for the October 2018 killing.

“If a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah,” Khashoggi’s son Salah tweeted. “Therefore, we the sons of the martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce that we pardon those who killed our father.”

In Saudi Arabia, which lacks a codified legal system and follows Islamic law, forgiveness from a victim’s family in cases of murder can allow for a formal pardon.

The Saudi court which issued the five death sentences in December said the killing was not premeditated, a ruling which backed assertions by Saudi officials but which contradicted the findings of a UN-led inquiry into Khashoggi’s killing.

However, Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz said on Friday that no one could pardon his killers. “Nobody has the right to pardon the killers. We will not pardon the killers, nor those who ordered the killing,” she said in a tweet.

But the journalist’s fiancée says ‘nobody can pardon his killers’

Khashoggi was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2, 2018, where he had gone to obtain documents for his impending wedding. His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building, and his remains have not been found.

The murder caused a global uproar and tarnished the image of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi officials denied he played a role in the killing, though in September 2019 the prince indicated some personal accountability, saying “it happened under my watch”.

Eleven suspects in all were put on trial in secretive proceedings in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Three were jailed and another three had the charges against them dismissed.

The trial was condemned by the United Nations and rights groups. Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, accused Saudi Arabia of making a “mockery” of justice by allowing the masterminds of the 2018 killing to go free.

Khashoggi’s son Salah said at the time of the December verdict that “it has been fair to us and that justice has been achieved.”

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2020