A Saudi Arabian court on Monday sentenced five people to death for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist working for the Washington Post when he was killed in Istanbul last year.
The prosecutor's office in Riyadh announced the sentences, saying the five were guilty of "committing and directly participating in the murder." Three other defendants were sentenced to a total of 24 years, the prosecutor's office said.
All 11 can appeal the verdicts. Three other defendants were acquitted, and the office said no charges were brought against 10 other people investigated in the case.
Khashoggi, a frequent critic of the Saudi ruling family, was living in self-exile in Turkey when he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, in search of paperwork related to his planned marriage. He was never seen again, and his body was never been found.
The Saudis initially claimed Khashoggi, 59, left the consulate that day, and security footage shows someone wearing his clothes walking away. For weeks Saudi Arabia denied any knowledge of Khashoggi's fate.
The Saudis ultimately revised the story, saying Khashoggi died after a fight broke out during his interrogation. An investigation was conducted, and several of the agents charged in the case worked for Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who drew international condemnation after the killing.
Saudi leaders, however, repeatedly ejected Turkish claims that the prince ordered or had advanced knowledge of the killing.
Khashoggi killed in 'rogue operation' and attempted cover-up, Saudi official says
Timeline shows events leading to Washington Post journalist's death
Saudi prosecutors had accused deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri of overseeing the killing, and that he had been advised by the royal court's media expert Saud al-Qahtani. Al-Assiri was acquitted while al-Qahtani was investigated but not indicted "due to insufficient evidence."
Mohammed al-Otaibi, Saudi consul-general in Istanbul at the time, also won acquittal.
UN expert cites 'credible evidence' against Saudi prince in Khashoggi murder
'Come with us': A year after Khashoggi's killing, Saudi Arabian crackdown persists
Agnes Callamard, a U.N. special rapporteur who authored an inquiry into Khashoggi's killing, later said the search for justice must not be left to the Saudi judicial system, which is "so vulnerable to political interference."
President Donald Trump condemned the killing, and his administration sanctioned 17 Saudis suspected of being involved, though not the crown prince. Trump, however, has steadfastly resisted calls by members of his own party for a tougher response and has defended maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia, framing its importance as a major buyer of U.S. military equipment and weapons and saying this creates American jobs.
Meanwhile, numerous critics of the Saudi crown prince remain imprisoned and face trial for their acts of dissent.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Why grisly UN report on Khashoggi murder will not change Trump Saudi policy
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jamal Khashoggi killing: Saudi Arabian court sentences 5 to death