A United States federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit that was brought against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in response to input from the Biden administration that claimed he is immune in his newly appointed post as prime minister.
The court, under separation of powers, must yield to the executive branch despite its “uneasiness, then, with both the circumstances of bin Salman’s appointment and the credible allegations of his involvement in Khashoggi’s murder”, wrote United States District Judge John Bates in a filing in Washington.
Ms. Hatice Cengiz, Mr. Khashoggi’s fiancee and plaintiff in the lawsuit accused Saudi Arabia of trying to manipulate US courts by appointing the Crown Prince as head of government only six days before the Justice Department’s deadline to weigh in on the case.
The government wrote that the Crown Prince cannot be sued in the US because his position as head of government gave him immunity under international law.
In its filing, the US government wrote that it
“has expressed grave concerns regarding Jamal Khashoggi’s horrific killing and has raised these concerns publicly and with the most senior levels of the Saudi government.”
Ms. Cengiz, who was engaged to Mr. Khashoggi when he was killed, sued the Saudi Crown Prince and others, accusing him of ordering the murder.
Ms. Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, an advocacy group that filed the lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Cengiz, wrote on Twitter that the court’s decision was “sad news for accountability”.
She said that the group is consulting with lawyers on the next steps and that “our struggle for justice continues”.
Mr. Khashoggi, who was critical of the Saudi regime, was killed in 2018 and his body was dismembered.
The US intelligence community concluded that Prince Mohammed approved the operation to kill or capture Mr. Khashoggi.
The Crown Prince has denied involvement in the killing.
Mr. Bates warned that diplomacy between countries could be disrupted if the judiciary starts meddling in “foreign immunity decisions” of the executive branch.