A US court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi citing President Biden’s grant of immunity.
The lawsuit filed by the fiance of Khashoggi was dismissed by US District Judge John Bates. The judge was not convinced of throwing out the lawsuit but had no choice given the Biden administration’s decision, reported news agency Reuters.
“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,” Bates wrote in the 25-page ruling, as per the agency.
While invoking the circumstances of Prince Mohammed’s appointment of head of state, Bates pointed to the fact that it was in September that Saudi King Salman named Prince Mohammed prime minister in a royal decree.
Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi officials inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. The operation which US intelligence believed was ordered by Prince Mohammed, known by his initials MbS, who has been the kingdom’s de facto ruler for several years. Khashoggi’s column in The Washington Post criticised the harsh ways of Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.
Khashoggi had travelled to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain papers he needed to marry Cengiz, a Turkish citizen. The prince has denied ordering Khashoggi’s killing but acknowledged later that it took place “under my watch.”
What happened in the Khashoggi lawsuit?
The US intelligence community concluded that the Saudi crown prince ordered the operation against Khashoggi. This caused a rift between the Biden administration and Saudi Arabia as the US also unsuccessfully urged the kingdom to undo oil production cuts in a global market racked by the Ukraine war.
Attorneys for the US Department of Justice said in a November court filing that the Biden Administration had determined that Prince Mohammed, “as the sitting head of a foreign government, enjoys head of state immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts as a result of that office.”
At that time, Khashoggi’s fiance, Hatice Cengiz, said, “Jamal died again today.”
Biden has been criticised for interacting with the crown prince on a visit to Saudi Arabia in July to discuss energy and security issues. The White House said Biden had told Prince Mohammed that he considered him responsible for Khashoggi’s killing, according to the news agency AP.
The Biden administration, invited but not ordered by the judge to offer an opinion on the matter, declared last month that Prince Mohammed’s standing as Saudi Arabia’s prime minister gave him sovereign immunity from the US lawsuit.Khashoggi’s fiancee and rights group condemned the move saying it was an attempt to shield the prince from the US court.