The Washington Post slammed President Joe Biden in a statement Friday for shielding Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from a lawsuit on Thursday over his involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, one of the newspaper’s columnists.
The Biden administration said Thursday evening 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.
“In granting legal immunity to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, President Biden is failing to uphold America’s most cherished values,” Fred Ryan, Publisher and CEO of The Washington Post, said in a statement. “He is granting a license to kill to one of the world’s most egregious human-rights abusers who is responsible for the cold-blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist.”
“While legitimate heads of government should be protected against frivolous lawsuits, the Saudis’ decision to make MBS prime minister was a cynical, calculated effort to manipulate the law and shield him from accountability,” Ryan added. “By going along with this scheme, President Biden is turning his back on fundamental principles of press freedom and equality. The American people-and those wronged by MBS in Saudi Arabia and around the world-deserve better.”
New statement from Washington Post Publisher Fred Ryan pic.twitter.com/D0Cbt6Cpg2
— Washington Post PR (@WashPostPR) November 18, 2022
Richard C. Visek, acting legal adviser at the United States Department of State, signed a letter on Thursday that said that the 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.”
The move by the Biden administration comes after the president said during a primary debate 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.”