The Biden administration wants Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be granted immunity in the U.S. legal case over the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The New York Times reports.
Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi dissident who fled to the United States and became a columnist at the Post, was killed and dismembered by a team of Saudi agents at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he went to get paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée.
US intelligence concluded that MBS, who has since become prime minister, had ordered the killing.
MBS has repeatedly denied prior knowledge of the plot to kill Khashoggi, though the government acknowledged that their agents had killed him.
Khashoggi’s fiancé, Katice Cengiz, sued MBS and his top aides in a D.C. federal court. MBS lawyers argued that he has “sovereign immunity.”
Biden admin weighs in:
The State Department on Thursday weighed in on the case, saying in a letter to the Justice Department that MBS should be “immune while in office” as the head of the Saudi government.
The letter said the department did not take a position on the merits of the lawsuit and reiterated its “unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder.”
But the letter asked the DOJ to formally request that the federal court grant MBS immunity.
The ultimate decision will be made by the judge.
“Caving into M.B.S.’ immunity ploy — when silence was an option for the administration — not only rewards M.B.S. for his intransigence, including continued attacks on activists in the U.S., but signals GO to tyrants around the world,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of DAWN, a human rights group co-founded by Mr. Khashoggi and is also suing MBS, wrote on Twitter.
“Jamal died again today,” Cengiz tweeted.