Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) (Photo credit: Getty Images)
A US federal court on 6 December dismissed a lawsuit filed by the fiancée of murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), citing the immunity granted to the Saudi leader by US President Joe Biden.
“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,” Judge John Bates wrote in the 25-page ruling.
Saudi King Salman named MbS Prime Minister via royal decree in September, marking the first time a crown prince has held the title of premier – a position previously reserved for the king.
The move was considered by many as an attempt to shield MbS from prosecution in the US for his role in orchestrating the kidnapping, torture, and dismemberment of Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi monarchy.
Attorneys for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a November court filing that the White House determined MbS as “the sitting head of a foreign government,” therefore, he enjoys head-of-state immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts.
Khashoggi’s fiance, Hatice Cengiz, blasted Biden for this decision, saying: “Jamal died again today.”
Cengiz accused the US of “pampering” the kingdom and putting “money ahead of justice,” while expressing her feelings of betrayal after having assumed Washington could deliver justice.
A US intelligence report released last year concluded that MbS ordered Khashoggi’s assassination. And while Turkey was initially interested in punishing those responsible, earlier this year, Ankara officially transferred the case to Saudi Arabia, where those involved are reportedly living in seven-star villas.
During his presidential campaign, Biden made explicit promises to make the kingdom a “pariah” state and to have MbS “pay the price” for Khashoggi’s murder.