Saudi prince has immunity in Khashoggi killing lawsuit, say lawyers

Oct 3 (Reuters) – Lawyers for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who are facing a US lawsuit over the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said in court on Monday that the crown prince’s appointment as prime minister in the past week have secured him immunity from prosecution.

Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in an operation US intelligence believed was ordered by Prince Mohammed, who has been the de facto ruler of the kingdom for several years.

The prince denied ordering Khashoggi’s assassination, but later acknowledged it was “under my supervision”.

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Last week, his elder father King Salman appointed him prime minister in a royal decree that aligns with duties the crown prince already performs, according to a Saudi official.

“The royal order leaves no doubt that the crown prince is entitled to status-based immunity,” lawyers for the prince said in a petition asking the court to dismiss the case, citing other cases in which the United States has the Have recognized immunity of a foreign chief state.

US President Joe Biden, who bumped the crown prince’s fist during a visit to Saudi Arabia to discuss energy and security issues in July, had told Prince Mohammed that Biden held him responsible for the assassination of Khashoggi. He said Prince Mohammed has denied any involvement and claims those involved have been held accountable.

Khashoggi, who wrote columns for the Washington Post criticizing the crown prince’s policies, was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He went there to get papers he needed to marry Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish citizen.

The lawsuit was filed jointly by Cengiz and a human rights group founded by Khashoggi, and sought unspecified damages against the crown prince, known in the West as MbS. It also named more than 20 other Saudis as co-defendants.

It accused MbS, his co-defendants and others of conspiring to “permanently silence Mr Khashoggi” after they found out he planned to use the group as a “platform for democratic reform and the promotion of human rights”. to use.

The court had asked the US Department of Justice to comment on whether Prince Mohammed had immunity, setting an October 3 deadline for a response.

Following last week’s appointment of the prince as prime minister, the ministry said on Friday it was seeking a 45-day extension to prepare its reply to the court “in the light of these changing circumstances”.

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Reporting by Mike Scarcella; writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Josie Kao

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