President Joe Biden’s administration moved to shield Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from a lawsuit on Thursday over his alleged involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Biden administration said that prince’s status holding a high office “allows immunity” in response to a lawsuit filed by Khashoggi’s fiancée and by the rights group he founded, Democracy for the Arab World Now.
BREAKING: Biden administration suggests immunity for MBS in DAWN & Cengiz lawsuit for murder of #JamalKhashoggi:
breaking promise for accountability, Biden guarantees MBS impunity. pic.twitter.com/72n3dV53Gx
— Sarah Leah Whitson (@sarahleah1) November 18, 2022
Richard C. Visek, Acting Legal Adviser, United States Department of State stated in the letter that the State Department recognizes and allows the immunity of Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman as a sitting head of government of a foreign state. The letter concluded by requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice “submit a suggestion of immunity to the district court.”
Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, responded to the administration’s filing on Twitter, writing, “Jamal died again today.”
Jamal died again today #injustice #JamalKhashoggi
— Hatice Cengiz خديجة (@mercan_resifi) November 18, 2022
Biden said in 2019 that he wanted to make Saudi Arabia pay the price and make them a pariah, after US intelligence reported that they assessed that the prince “approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
Over the summer Biden claimed that he confronted the Saudi Crown Prince, and raised Khashoggi’s murder at the top of his meeting with the Saudi PM, “making it clear what I thought of it at the time and what I think of it now.”
President Joe Biden was recorded saying “I made my view crystal clear. I said very straightforwardly: For an American President to be silent on an issue of human rights, is this consistent with, inconsistent with who we are and who I am? I’ll always stand up for our values.”
The move garnered many criticisms from human rights groups, highlighting the fact that the Biden administration offered up a voluntary concession to bin Salman when silence was an option.
The Biden administration ruled that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has immunity from a lawsuit over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, drawing immediate condemnation from the slain journalist's former fiancée https://t.co/C3HxnLDmh1 pic.twitter.com/A26xOUT3S2
— Reuters (@Reuters) November 18, 2022
The Washington Post, the news outlet that employed Jamal Khashoggi before his murder, published an opinion piece, arguing that Biden rewarded the Saudi leader’s impunity with legal immunity.
In July, President Joe Biden was filmed fist-bumping the prince. Washington Post publisher and CEO Fred Ryan said in a statement at the time, that “The fist bump between President Biden and Mohammed bin Salman was worse than a handshake — it was shameful. It projected a level of intimacy and comfort that delivers to MBS the unwarranted redemption he has been desperately seeking,”
— Kristine Coratti Kelly (@kriscoratti) July 15, 2022