West News Wire: The fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi sued Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but a federal judge in Washington, DC dismissed the case, citing President Joe Biden’s decision to grant the prince protection.
On Tuesday, United States District Judge John Bates made the implication that he was hesitant to dismiss the action but had little alternative in light of the Biden administration’s choice to grant the crown prince immunity.
In October 2018, Saudi Arabian agents assassinated and dismembered Jamal Khashoggi in the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. According to US intelligence, the operation was directed by the crown prince.
Although the crown prince initially denied ordering Khashoggi’s murder, he later admitted that it happened “under my watch.”
Attorneys for the US Department of Justice said in a November court filing that the Biden Administration had determined Prince Mohammed, “as the sitting head of a foreign government”, enjoyed head-of-state immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts.
“Despite the Court’s uneasiness, then, with both the circumstances of bin Salman’s appointment and the credible allegations of his involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, the United States has informed the Court that he is immune,” judge Bates wrote in the 25-page ruling.
In invoking the circumstances of the crown prince’s appointment as head of state, Bates was referring to the fact the prince was only in September named prime minister in a royal decree.
Khashoggi, who had criticised the crown prince’s policies in Washington Post columns, had travelled to Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul to obtain papers he needed to marry his fiance Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish citizen.
Khashoggi’s fiancee, who had waited unknowingly outside the consulate as he was killed, and a rights group founded by the slain journalist before he died brought the lawsuit, which also named two top aides of the crown prince as accomplices.
The killing opened a rift between the Biden administration and Saudi Arabia that it has tried in recent months to close, as the US unsuccessfully urged the kingdom to undo its oil production cuts in a global market racked by the Ukraine war.
Human rights groups and Saudi Arabian exiles have argued that sparing the prince from accountability would give authoritarian rulers around the world a green light for future abuses.