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Human Rights

Biden administration says Saudi Crown Prince immune from lawsuit over journalist's murder

“Jamal died again today,” Khashoggi's fiancée Hatice Cengiz, who brought the lawsuit with her late partner's right group, said of the news.

November 18, 2022 9:57am

Updated: November 21, 2022 4:14pm

The Biden administration declared Thursday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s status as a sitting head of state protects him from a lawsuit over his role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Oct. 2018.

The dispute comes amid a political dispute between President Joe Biden, who vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over the journalist’s killing, and the Saudi royal, who believed he was owed immunity as the de facto head of state, reports the Wall Street Journal.

U.S. intelligence has concluded that Khashoggi likely ordered the assassination of the Saudi journalist. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has delegated most of duties to his son, who was recently named prime minister – a title traditionally held by the king.

In a court filing Thursday, the State Department said that the immunity designation had long-standing precedent but “does not reflect a judgment on the underlying conduct at issue in the litigation.”

“Jamal died again today,” Khashoggi's fiancée Hatice Cengiz, who brought the lawsuit with the rights group Khashoggi founded, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), tweeted after hearing of the White House’s decision.

She added, “We thought maybe there would be a light to justice from #USA But again, money came first.”

“It´s beyond ironic that President Biden has singlehandedly assured MBS can escape accountability when it was President Biden who promised the American people he would do everything to hold him accountable,” the head of DAWN, Sarah Leah Whitson, said in a statement.

The journalist’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Turkey has been a source of friction between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Biden refused to meet the crown prince for a year after his election, instead speaking directly with King Salman.

The Saudis responded by engineering a large production cut with OPEC, which sent gas prices skyrocketing amid Russia’s war with Ukraine.