US steps to save Saudi Crown Prince in journalist murder case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration announced Thursday that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince should be considered immune from trial over his role in the murder of a US journalist, a move that marked Biden’s passionate campaign for Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Condemned brutal slaughter.

The administration said the crown prince’s senior position as Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and recently-designated prime minister is being challenged by a lawsuit brought by the fiancee of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and by Democracy for Democracy, a rights group founded by Khashoggi. They should be shielded against. Now for the Arab world.

The request is non-binding and a judge will ultimately decide whether to grant immunity. But it is bound to anger human rights activists and several US lawmakers, as Saudi Arabia has stepped up imprisonment and other reprisals against peaceful critics at home and abroad and cut oil production, a move criticized by the US and its allies. Seen as undermining efforts by allies. To punish Russia for the war against Ukraine.

The State Department on Thursday called the administration’s call to shield the Saudi Crown Prince from US courts in Khashoggi’s murder “purely a legal determination.”

The State Department quoted that what he said was old precedent. Despite its recommendation to the court, the State Department said in its filing late Thursday, “It does not consider the merits of the present trial and reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Saudi officials killed Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. It is believed that they dismembered him, although his remains have never been found. The US intelligence community concluded that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia had approved the assassination of a widely known and respected journalist who had written about Prince Mohammed’s harsh methods against whom he considered a rival or critic.

The Biden administration statement on Thursday referred to visa restrictions and other punishments meted out to low-level Saudi officials in the death case.

The State Department said, “From the earliest days of this administration, the United States government has expressed its grave concern about the responsibility of Saudi agents for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.” His statement did not mention his alleged role as crown prince.

As a candidate, Biden vowed to make Saudi rulers “untouchables” over Khashoggi’s 2018 murder.

“I think it was a flat-out murder,” Biden said at a 2019 CNN town hall as a candidate. “And I think we should have grabbed it like that. I said publicly at the time that we should have treated it like that and there should be consequences for how we deal with them — that power.”

But Biden as president has sought to ease tensions with the kingdom, including punching out with Prince Mohammed over a July visit to the kingdom, as the US tries to persuade Saudi Arabia to cut a series of oil production cuts. Works.

Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, and DAWN sued the crown prince, his top aides, and others in Washington federal court over their alleged roles in Khashoggi’s murder. Saudi Arabia maintains that the prince had no direct role in the assassination.

Dawn chief Sarah Leah Whitson said in a statement, “It is beyond ironic that President Biden has single-handedly assured MBS of accountability when President Biden promised the American people that he would hold him accountable.” Will do everything for you.” Abbreviation of prince.

Biden himself denied the US government’s conviction of Prince Mohammed in the February 2021 murder of Washington area resident Khashoggi. Biden, speaking after authorizing a declassified version of the intelligence community’s findings on Prince Mohammed’s role in the assassination, argued that at the time there was no precedent for the US to act against the leader of a strategic partner.

In exchange for protecting Saudi Arabia’s global oil markets, the US military has long protected Saudi Arabia from external enemies.

“It is impossible to read the Biden administration’s move today as anything more than a capitulation to Saudi pressure tactics, which include slashing oil production in recognition of MBS’s fake immunity ploy,” Whitson said.

A federal judge in Washington has given the US government until midnight on Thursday to express an opinion on the crown prince’s lawyers’ claim that Prince Mohammed’s high authority has granted him legal immunity in the case.

The Biden administration also had the option of not voicing its opinion in any way.

Sovereign immunity, a concept rooted in international law, holds that states and their officials are protected from certain legal proceedings in the domestic courts of other foreign states.

The State Department said that upholding the concept of “sovereign immunity” helps ensure that US leaders do not have to worry about being dragged to foreign courts to face prosecution in other countries.

Human rights advocates had argued that the Biden administration would expose Prince Mohammed and other authoritarian leaders around the world to more rights abuses if it supported the crown prince’s claim that his high office protected him from prosecution.

Prince Mohammed serves as the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia in place of his aging father, King Salman. In September the Saudi king also temporarily transferred the title of his prime minister – a title usually held by the Saudi monarch – to Prince Mohammed. Critics termed it as an attempt to bolster Mohammed’s claim of immunity.

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Eric Tucker and Amer Madhani contributed.

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