Ask an American judge Biden administration To reflect on whether Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, should be granted sovereign immunity in a civil case brought against him in the United States by Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed by Saudi agents in 2018.
District Court Judge John Bates has given the US government until August 1 to state its interests in the civil case or give the court notice that it has no say in the matter.
The administration’s decision could have a profound impact on the civil case and comes as Joe Biden faces criticism for breaking his campaign promise. Kingdom Saudi Arabia to “outcast”.
The US president is scheduled to meet the Saudi crown prince later this month when he makes his first trip to Riyadh since entering the White House.
The civil lawsuit against Prince Mohammed, which Cengiz filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C. in October 2020, alleges that he and other Saudi officials acted in a “premeditated conspiracy” when Saudi agents kidnapped, restrained, drugged and tortured. Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Khashoggi, a former well-informed Saudi who fled the kingdom and was based in Virginia, was a vocal critic of the young crown prince and was actively seeking to counter Saudi propaganda online at the time he was killed.
After years of inaction against Prince Mohammed by Donald Trump, who was president when Khashoggi was murdered, the Biden administration moved to release an unclassified US intelligence report in 2021, shortly after Biden entered the White House, which concluded that Prince Mohammed was like that. He may have ordered the killing Khashoggi.
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at the time of the report’s release that the Kingdom’s government “categorically rejects what was stated in the report submitted to Congress.”
While Saudi Arabia said it had held a trial against the hit squad responsible for the horrific murder, the measure was widely condemned as a hoax, and some senior members of the team were seen at a state security compound in Riyadh.
Other potential avenues of justice have been bogged down for political reasons. The Turkish Prosecutor General completed last March Trial in absentia against Khashoggi’s killers, in a move that was seen as part of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempts to improve relations with Prince Mohammed.
The Saudi prince claimed responsibility for the killing on behalf of the Saudi government but denied any personal involvement in the planning of the assassination.
For supporters of Genghis, who was an outspoken advocate for justice in the Khashoggi murder, any move by the US government to demand that the crown prince be granted sovereign immunity in this case would be a betrayal of Biden’s promise to hold Saudi Arabia accountable.
It would be unreasonable and unprecedented for the administration to protect him. Abdullah Al-Odah, director of research at Dawn, a non-profit organization that promotes democracy in the Middle East founded by Khashoggi and one of the prosecutors involved in the case against the crown prince, said.
Judge Bates said in an order issued Friday that he will hold a hearing on August 31 after Prince Mohammed and others filed his suit to dismiss the civil suit.
The requests to dismiss the civil case are based on allegations by Prince Mohammed’s lawyer that the capital’s court lacks jurisdiction over the crown prince.
In the Court’s view, some of the grounds for dismissal given by the Defendants may involve the interests of the United States; moreover, the Court’s decision on the Defendants’ requests may be supported by knowledge of the views of the United States.
The judge said he was specifically calling on the United States government to submit a statement of interests regarding the applicability of the so-called state doctrine, which states that the United States should refrain from examining the actions of another foreign government within its courts; This doctrine interacted with the 1991 law giving Americans and non-citizens the right to bring legal claims in the United States regarding torture and extrajudicial killings committed in foreign countries; the application of the immunity of the Head of State in this case; and the US view of whether Saudi Arabia’s sovereign interests could be harmed if the issue persists.
Agnes Callamard, head of Amnesty International, which investigated Khashoggi’s killing in her previous role as the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, said it was “laughable” that Prince Mohammed, whom she called a “quasi-sovereign”, could benefit from a president State immunity after the US itself publicly concluded that it most likely approved the Khashoggi murder.
She indicated that Prince Mohammed is not a king, and added: “Muhammad bin Salman [as the crown prince is known] He is not the ruler of Saudi Arabia and the United States should not recognize him as the head of state. Doing so would give him power and legitimacy he certainly does not deserve and hope he never gets.”
Jenkins could not be reached for comment. It was not possible to obtain a comment from the Saudi embassy in Washington.
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