Thursday’s ruling comes a week after the Turkish prosecutor asked to stop the nearly two-year trial and move it to Saudi Arabia because arrest warrants for the suspects were not implemented and their statements could not be taken.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is currently seeking to repair relations with Riyadh.
Khashoggi’s fiancée, Khadija Cengiz, and her legal team told CNN they would appeal the decision. They argued that the case was likely to fade into Saudi Arabia’s opaque justice system.
Reporters Without Borders described the decision as “shocking”. “Hopes for justice have been dashed, but RSF will continue to challenge this unacceptable impunity by all means,” the group said on Twitter.
It is unclear what comes next for the 26 suspects. Saudi Arabia in 2020 sentenced eight people to prison terms of between seven and 20 years for the Khashoggi murder, but Ankara said at the time that the sentence did not live up to expectations. The Turkish court overseeing the case in November requested details from the Saudi authorities – who did not name the suspects sentenced in Riyadh – so that the defendants would not be punished twice for the same crime.
The Turkish public prosecutor said that the Saudi authorities responded by requesting that the case be referred to them. The public prosecutor said Riyadh had pledged to assess the charges against the 26 defendants if the case was moved.
The killing and subsequent accusations soured relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, including a boycott of Turkish goods, which cut Ankara’s exports to the kingdom by 90%.
Erdogan is now seeking to improve relations with countries that have become arch rivals in recent years, including Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Israeli and Emirati leaders have visited Ankara in recent months, but progress with Cairo and Riyadh has been slower. Erdogan said last month that he hoped to take “concrete steps” with Saudi Arabia soon.
Reuters contributed to the report.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”