Khashoggi Fiancee Slams White House: ‘Jamal Died Again’

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Mohammed bin Salman has repeatedly insisted he had nothing to do with the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi despite American intelligence officials determining otherwise. Now the Saudi Arabian crown prince may be off the hook in a lawsuit brought by Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, reports Reuters. “The State Department recognizes and allows the immunity of Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman as a sitting head of government of a foreign state,” reads a Thursday letter from the agency to the Justice Department. The letter goes on to say that the State Department “takes no view on the merits” of Cengiz’s suit and “reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”


The New York Times notes that the crown prince, who became Saudi Arabia’s prime minister in September, is the de facto leader of the kingdom, though his father, King Salman, is still officially its head of state. Biden had drawn criticism from Cengiz and human rights activists for not only traveling to Saudi Arabia and meeting with the crown prince over the summer, but also for a fist bump he offered to him as a greeting. “It was President Biden who promised the American people he would do everything to hold him accountable,” a spokeswoman for the nonprofit human-rights group Democracy for the Arab World Now said in a statement, per Reuters, referring to Biden’s campaign promise to make the Saudis “pay the price” for Khashoggi’s killing.


Cengiz—who’d penned an op-ed in the Post over the summer pleading with Biden to “uphold your promise to pursue justice for Jamal”—voiced her disappointment with the administration’s decision. “Jamal died again today,” she tweeted Thursday, adding the hashtag #injustice. But John B. Bellinger III, a former legal adviser for the State Department, says the Biden administration’s hands were tied: “I’m sure this was a difficult decision for the administration, but international law recognizes that heads of state have immunity from civil suits in the courts of other nations.” Whether the crown prince will actually receive immunity will be determined by a federal judge in Washington, where Cengiz’s case was filed. (Read more Mohammed bin Salman stories.)

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