A federal judge in the nation’s capital agreed to toss a civil lawsuit against Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi after the Biden administration said he should be granted head-of-state immunity.
Judge John Bates wrote in an opinion filed Tuesday that the suit – brought by Khashoogi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz and pro-democracy group DAWN – “must be dismissed at this time,” despite a request by the plaintiffs’ attorneys that the judge challenge the Biden decision.
“As the branch of government primarily responsible for international affairs and diplomacy, the Executive Branch may be hindered or embarrassed should the judiciary second-guess its foreign immunity decisions,” Bates wrote.
“Despite the Court’s uneasiness, then, with both the circumstances of bin Salman’s appointment and the credible allegations of his involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, the United States has informed the Court that he is immune, and bin Salman is therefore ‘entitled to head of state immunity . . . while he remains in office’,” Bates continued.
“Accordingly, the claims against bin Salman will be dismissed based on head-of-state immunity,” he added.
Khashoogi was killed by Saudi officials in 2018 after being lured to the nation’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. His body is believed to have been dismembered, but remains from the murder were never recovered.
US intelligence authorities determined bin Salman approved the killing of the well-known journalist and author, who wrote critically of the Saudi leader’s authoritarian rule in the Arab nation.
The move to grant immunity to bin Salman by Biden was harshly criticized by those seeking to hold bin Salman accountable for the murder.
“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 after the immunity was granted in November.
Biden has sought to ease tensions with the Saudis after striking a harsh tone about the killing as a candidate in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election.
“I think it was a flat-out murder,” Biden said in 2019. “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.”
As president, Biden tried to buddy up to bin Salman in an effort to lower gas prices – and famously gave the authoritarian a fist bump during a July visit to Jeddah.
With Post Wires