WASHINGTON: The Biden administration decided on Thursday that the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman has immunity from trial for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, prompting immediate condemnation from the slain journalist’s former fiancée.
Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in October 2018 by Saudi agents at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, an operation that US intelligence says was ordered by Prince Mohammed, who has been the kingdom’s de facto ruler for several years.
“Jamal died again today,” Khashoggi’s ex-fiancée Hatice Cengiz tweeted minutes after the news broke. She later added, “We thought there might be some light on #USA justice But again, money came first. It’s a world Jamal doesn’t know and I ..!”
A spokesperson for the Saudi consulate in Washington could not be reached for comment Thursday evening after hours.
“This is a legal decision made by the State Department under long-standing and well-established principles of customary international law,” a spokesman for the White House National Security Council said in a statement. written statement. “It has nothing to do with the merits of the Cas.”
The spokesperson referred further questions to the State and Justice Departments.
In a document filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Justice Department attorneys wrote that “the doctrine of Heads of State immunity is well established in customary international law.”
Justice Department lawyers said the executive branch of the U.S. government, referring to the Biden administration, had “determined that the accused bin Salman, as the sitting head of a foreign government, benefits from the immunity of the Head of State from the jurisdiction of the United States courts by reason of this office.”
At the end of September, the Saudi King salman appointed Prince Mohammad prime minister in a royal decree which a Saudi official said was in line with responsibilities the crown prince already exercised.
“The royal order leaves no doubt that the crown prince is entitled to status-based immunity,” the prince’s attorneys said in an Oct. 3 motion asking a federal district court in Washington to dismiss the case, citing other instances where the United States has recognized immunity to a foreign head of state.
Biden has come under fire for punching the crown prince during a visit to Saudi Arabia in July to discuss energy and security issues. The White House said Biden told Prince Mohammed he held him responsible for killing Khashoggi.
The prince, known by his initials MbS, denied ordering Khashoggi’s killing but later admitted it had taken place “under my watch”.
Khashoggi had criticized the policy of the crown prince in the columns of the Washington Post. He had gone to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get the papers he needed to marry Cengiz, a Turkish citizen.
“It is more than ironic that President Biden single-handedly ensured that MBS could escape accountability when it was President Biden who promised the American people that he would do anything to hold him accountable. Not even the Asset the administration did this,” said Sarah Lee Whitson, spokeswoman for Democracy for the Arab World Now, in a written statement.

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