Washington: A US judge dismissed a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his alleged role in the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Washington federal judge John Bates accepted a US government’s stance that Prince Mohammed, who was designated prime minister of Saudi Arabia in September, enjoys immunity in US courts as a foreign head of state.
Bates said the civil suit filed by Khashoggi’s widow Hatice Cengiz and his activist group DAWN made a “strong” and “meritorious” argument that Prince Mohammed was behind the murder.
But he ruled that he had no power to reject the US government’s official stance, submitted in a formal statement to the court on November 17, that the prince had immunity as a foreign leader.
Even if the prince was named prime minister just weeks ago, the US government’s executive branch “remains responsible for foreign affairs, including with Saudi Arabia, and a contrary decision on bin Salman’s immunity by this Court would unduly interfere with those responsibilities,” Bates said.
He said the “credible” allegations of the murder, the timing of prince’s being named prime minister, and timing of the US government’s submission, left him with “uneasiness”.
One of the prince’s most vocal critics, Khashoggi was a journalist and activist based in the United States when he traveled to Turkey with his fiancee to obtain documents for their marriage from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
After he entered the consulate Khashoggi was seized and murdered by a team of agents of the Saudi regime, his body dismembered and disposed of.
Last year, US President Joe Biden declassified an intelligence report that found Prince Mohammed had approved the operation against Khashoggi, an assertion Saudi authorities deny.
The murder deeply strained ties between Washington and Riyadh.