UPDATED 11:44 AM PT – Friday, November 18, 2022
The Biden administration told a U.S. Court that Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman is immune from litigation. This case is regarding the 2018 killing of the Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
The Crown Prince was named Saudi’s Prime Minister back in September. This came after U.S. intelligence determined that Bin Salman ordered the killing of Khashoggi.
Back in 2019, when Biden was still just a presidential candidate, he pledged to hold Bin Salman accountable over the matter.
“I think it was a flat-out murder,” the Democrat said. “And I think we should have nailed it as that. I publicly said at the time we should treat it that way and there should be consequences relating to how we deal with those — that power.”
A lawsuit was initially filed by Khashoggi’s widow, and by the late journalists civil rights group, Democracy for the Arab World Now. In a court filing on Thursday, attorneys for the Justice Department argued that as the head of a sitting government, Bin Salman was immune from a civil lawsuit.
The possibility of the United States government punishing Prince Mohammed for the murder of Khashoggi, a resident of the Washington metropolitan region, was rejected by Biden in February 2021. Biden claimed that at the time, there had never been a precedence for the U.S. to act against the head of a key partner.
The State Department described the administration’s request for the Saudi Crown Prince to be exempt from prosecution in American courts as “pure legal determination.” According to the State Department, upholding the idea of “sovereign immunity” contributes to ensuring that American leaders don’t have to worry about being hauled into international courts to defend themselves against claims from other nations.
The application is not legally binding, and the judge will eventually determine whether to award immunity. Thursday’s filing will likely lead to the dismissal of the case.
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