(Washington, DC) – PEN America today welcomed the news that Istanbul’s chief prosecutor has indicted 20 Saudi officials for their roles in the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Turkish authorities filed those charges Wednesday, seeking life sentences for 18 men for murder, while two other high-ranking officials, both close associates of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were charged with “incitement to first degree murder.”

“This action by Turkish prosecutors is a welcome step forward in the effort to find justice for Jamal Khashoggi and his family,” said PEN America’s Washington director Thomas O. Melia. “The Istanbul prosecutors have advanced the case despite obstruction from the government of Saudi Arabia and continued inaction by the U.S. government. In the face of this decisive action, the reluctance of the U.S. government to take even minimal action looks like sheer cowardice. We renew our call for the U.S. director of national intelligence to abide by U.S. law and send to Congress an unclassified report identifying those who carried out, ordered, or were otherwise complicit in Khashoggi’s killing, and for all those responsible to be held to account.”

PEN America has consistently called for justice in the October 2018 murder of Khashoggi. His death is part of a broader pattern of human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. In May, PEN America honored Saudi women writer-activists Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan with the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. Abdulaziz, Al-Hathloul, and Al-Nafjan have been subjected to imprisonment, solitary confinement, and torture by the Saudi Arabian government as part of its brutal crackdown on individuals who raise their voices in defense of women’s rights in the Kingdom. 


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, sfee@pen.org, +1 202 309 8892