President Joe Biden’s administration moved to shield Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from a lawsuit on Thursday over his involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Biden administration said that MBS’ status holding a high office “allows immunity” in response to a lawsuit filed by Khashoggi’s fiancée and by the rights group he founded, Democracy for the Arab World Now.
“The State Department recognizes and allows the immunity of Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman as a sitting head of government of a foreign state,” said Richard C. Visek, Acting Legal Adviser, United States Department of State, in a letter. “The State Department recognizes and allows the immunity of Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman as a sitting head of government of a foreign state.”
“Under common law principles of immunity articulated by the Executive Branch in the exercise of its Constitutional authority over foreign affairs and informed by customary international law, Prime Minister bin Salman as a sitting head of government is immune while in office from the jurisdiction of the United States District Court in this suit,” the letter continued. “In making this immunity determination, the Department of State takes no view on the merits of the present suit and reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
The letter concluded by requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice “submit a suggestion of immunity to the district court.”
BREAKING: Biden administration suggests immunity for MBS in DAWN & Cengiz lawsuit for murder of #JamalKhashoggi:
breaking promise for accountability, Biden guarantees MBS impunity. pic.twitter.com/72n3dV53Gx
— Sarah Leah Whitson (@sarahleah1) November 18, 2022
Biden said in 2019 that he wanted to “make [Saudi Arabia] pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are” after U.S. intelligence said in a report that they assessed that MBS “approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
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