The State Department on Thursday called the government’s decision to try to shield the Saudi crown prince from a US court in Khashoggi’s killing “purely a legal determination.”
And despite backing the crown prince in his efforts to block the lawsuit against him, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “does not see the merits of the current lawsuit and reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” the administrative court late filed. said Thursday.
Saudi officials killed Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. They are believed to have dismembered him, although his remains have not been found. The US intelligence community concluded that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia had approved the killing of a well-known and respected journalist, who had written critically about Prince Mohammed’s harsh methods of isolating those he considered rivals or critics.
A statement from the Biden administration Thursday said the visa ban and other punishments already imposed on Saudi officials were down to the deaths.
“From the early days of this Administration, the United States Government has expressed serious concern about the responsibility of Saudi agents for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” the State Department said. The statement did not address the alleged role of the crown prince.
Biden as a candidate vowed to make a “pariah” out of the Saudi authorities over the 2018 murder of Khashoggi.
“I think it’s flat-out murder,” Biden said at a 2019 CNN town hall, as a candidate. “And I think we should strive for that. I generally said at the time we should treat it that way and there should be consequences related to how we deal with it – that power.
But Biden as president has sought to ease tensions with the kingdom, including a fist bump with Prince Mohammed during a July trip to the kingdom, as the U.S. works to persuade Saudi Arabia to cancel some oil production cuts.
Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, and DAWN are suing the crown prince, his top aides and others in Washington federal court over their alleged role in Khashoggi’s murder. Saudi Arabia said the prince had no direct role in the killing.
“It is even more ironic that President Biden only guaranteed MBS to escape from responsibility when it was President Biden who promised the American people that he would do everything to hold him accountable,” said the head of DAWN, Sarah Leah Whitson, in a statement, using the . Abbreviation prince.
Biden in February 2021 has ordered the US government to impose punishment on Prince Mohammed himself in the murder of Khashoggi, a resident of the Washington area. Biden, speaking after he authorized the release of a declassified version of the intelligence community’s findings about Prince Mohammed’s role in the assassination, argued at the time there was no precedent for the US to move against the leader of a strategic partner.
The US military has long protected Saudi Arabia from outside enemies, in exchange for Saudi Arabia keeping global oil markets afloat.
“It is impossible to read the current moves of the Biden administration as anything other than capitulation to Saudi pressure tactics, including cutting oil output to twist our arms to recognize MBS’s false immunity ploy,” Whitson said.
A federal judge in Washington has given the US government until midnight Thursday to express an opinion on claims by the crown prince’s lawyer that Prince Mohammed’s high-ranking position makes him legally immune in the case.
The Biden administration also has the option of not expressing an opinion either way.
Sovereign immunity, a concept rooted in international law, states that countries and their officials are protected from various legal proceedings in the domestic courts of other foreign countries.
Upholding the concept of “sovereign immunity” helps ensure that American leaders in turn do not have to worry about being hauled into foreign courts to face prosecution in other countries, said the State Department.
Human rights advocates have argued that the Biden administration will push Prince Mohammed and other authoritarian leaders around the world for more rights abuses if it supports the crown prince’s claim that his high office protects him from prosecution.
Prince Mohammed serves as the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia succeeding his aging father, King Salman. The Saudi king in September also temporarily transferred the title of prime minister – a title traditionally held by Saudi monarchs – to Prince Mohammed. Critics called it a bid to bolster Mohammed’s immunity claims.