The Washington Post has joined human rights lawyers in condemning the Biden administration’s argument that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has immunity in a lawsuit brought against him over the 2018 murder of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
The last: Fred Ryan, the publisher and CEO of The Post, said in a statement Friday that President Biden “grants a license to kill to one of the world’s most egregious human rights abusers responsible for the cold-blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
- “While legitimate government leaders should be protected from frivolous lawsuits, the Saudis’ decision to make MBS prime minister was a cynical, calculated attempt to manipulate the law and shield him from accountability,” Ryan added, referring to the prince who commonly known as MBS.
- “By agreeing to this plan, President Biden is turning his back on the fundamental principles of press freedom and equality.”
Send the news: The Biden administration statement was made in a court file in the lawsuit brought by the journalist’s fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, who also hit the action and rights group that Khashoggi founded, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).
Details: A State Department spokesman said in an emailed statement that the Justice Department has submitted the “suggestion of immunity” at the request of the State Department “based on longstanding and established legal principles.”
- This includes customary international law, “which the United States has applied consistently and in all governments to heads of state, heads of government and foreign ministers while in office,” the spokesman said.
- “This suggestion of immunity does not reflect an assessment of the merits of the case. It says nothing about broader policy or the state of relations. This was purely a legal determination.”
What they say: Cengiz tweeted that the suggestion of immunity “wasn’t a decision everyone expected”.
- “We thought maybe there would be a light for justice from #USA, but again, money came first,” she added. “This is a world that Jamal doesn’t know and I…!”
- “It is beyond ironic that President Biden single-handedly allowed MBS to escape responsibility when it was President Biden who promised the American people that he would do everything in his power to hold him accountable,” Sarah noted. Leah Whitson, executive director of DAWN, said in a statement. “Not even the Trump administration has done this.”
The big picture: Biden was criticized for sharing a punch with the prince after arriving in the Gulf Kingdom in July.
- US officials determined last year that MBS had authorized the 2018 murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
- MBS has denied ordering the killing of the dissident Saudi journalist, but said he accepted “responsibility” “happened under my supervision.”
What’s next: A judge will determine by AP whether to grant the prince immunity, as the Biden administration’s suggestion is non-binding.
Go deeper: Biden says he raised Khashoggi’s murder with the Saudi crown prince
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a statement from the publisher and CEO of the Washington Post.