The crown prince and two of the co-defendants filed motions to dismiss Cengiz’s lawsuit, claiming that the court lacks both subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. The crown prince has previously denied ordering Khashoggi’s murder, and Saudi officials have blamed “rogue agents” for the journalist’s death.
the CIA concluded in 2018 that Mohammed had ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, contradicting Saudi Arabia’s insistence that the crown prince had no prior knowledge of the plot.
US District Court Judge John Bates said in an order Friday that the US government may file a declaration of interest with respect to, among other things, “the applicability of the immunity of the head of state in this case.” The Biden administration may also state that it will not file such a statement. If the United States declares its interests, Mohammed and the other defendants will have until August 1. 16 to respond, Bates ruled.
Mohammed’s lawyers have argued that in the United States, crown princes enjoy sovereign immunity from civil suits. Muhammad’s father, King Salman, is the sovereign of Saudi Arabia, although the crown prince is widely considered the day-to-day ruler of the kingdom.
The crown prince “has immunity not only because of his immediate family relationship with the King, but also because of his own ‘high-ranking office,'” Mohammed’s lawyers argued in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed last year. Lawyers for Cengiz and DAWN have countered that courts have previously rejected claims that “de facto” leadership, by virtue of being crown prince, confers immunity.
The State Department normally consults with other US government agencies before issuing an immunity recommendation to the Justice Department, a formal request for which is usually binding in federal court. A decision can come quickly, as for a head of state, or take months or years, depending on the circumstances and complexity of the case, legal analysts say.
“It would be wrong both as a matter of law and as a matter of policy for the court to grant immunity to MBS, effectively guaranteeing impunity for this grotesque crime,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of DAWN, said in a text message.
The federal judge’s order comes just before President Biden is plans to travel to Saudi Arabia later this month for the first time in his presidency, a trip that has even unsettled some Democrats and sparked accusations against Biden flip-flopping on your promise make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” after Khashoggi’s assassination.
the saudi embassy promoted the next visit as one that would “enhance the historical and strategic partnership between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, as both countries aim to deepen and strengthen existing areas of cooperation and lay the groundwork for the future of this strategic partnership. ”
Khashoggi was Oct. Feb. 2, 2018, after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. to obtain documents that would allow him to marry Cengiz. In the months leading up to that visit, she had been writing columns for The Washington Post that were sharply critical of the crown prince, who effectively rules Saudi Arabia and has carried out a harsh crackdown on rivals and dissidents.
The death and dismemberment of the journalist were first revealed by the Turkish government. The assassination triggered a wave of international revulsion and calls to ostracize Saudi leaders.
A separate attempt to prosecute Khashoggi murder, in Turkey, ended recently after the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ended the trial of the suspected members of the Saudi team that killed the journalist at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. The suspects, who were all in Saudi Arabia, were being tried in absentia.
Turkey’s suspension of the trial in April coincided with an effort by the Erdogan government to restore relations with the kingdom that were severed after Khashoggi’s assassination.
“We will seek justice in the United States,” Cengiz said at the time, referring to the Turkish decision and his lawsuit in the United States.
Spencer S. Hsu and Nick Miroff contributed to this report.
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