Khashoggi murder: US government recommends immunity for crown prince

Status: 11/18/2022 4:06 p.m

The US government wants to protect the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from prosecution in the Khashoggi case. A judge must now decide.

According to the US government, the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman cannot be prosecuted in the United States for possible involvement in the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as long as he is Prime Minister of his country. As head of government of Saudi Arabia, he has immunity from prosecution in the United States, according to a court document from the US Department of Justice.

A court in the capital Washington had asked the ministry for an assessment of Mohammed bin Salman’s immunity status. After the murder of Saudi government critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi four years ago, his fiancé Hatice Cengiz filed a lawsuit against the crown prince and others in the United States, accusing them of involvement in the reporter’s killing. Among other things, Khashoggi worked as a columnist for the Washington Post.

Immunity firmly established in law

In the legal battle, bin Salman’s lawyers finally argued in early October that the appointment as prime minister at the end of September guaranteed the crown prince immunity. The court should therefore dismiss the action. The US Department of Justice has now emphasized that the US government has expressed serious concern to the Saudi leadership about the “horrific assassination” of Khashoggi and has also imposed sanctions.

However, the doctrine of the immunity of the head of state is firmly anchored in law, regardless of the subject of a particular legal dispute. US intelligence has accused bin Salman of being responsible for the 2018 murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by an assassin squad.

Sanctions spared the crown prince

The crown prince denies being the mastermind behind the action. The murder had led to the international isolation of the heir to the throne and plunged many Western countries’ relations with Saudi Arabia into a crisis that lasted for years, including relations with the USA. However, bin Salman was spared sanctions imposed by the government of US President Joe Biden on Saudi Arabia.

Khashoggi’s fiancee Cengiz accused Biden on Twitter of having saved the “murderer” and “criminal” by granting him immunity, thus implicating himself in the crime.

The US request is not binding, ultimately a judge must decide whether the Saudi de facto ruler is granted protection from criminal prosecution. With the declaration, the government is taking an amazing turn, especially since Biden, as a presidential candidate, had announced that he would treat the kingdom like a “pariah state” because of the assassination of Khashoggi.

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