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Khashoggi's fiancée says the slain journalist 'died again' after Biden argued for MBS to have immunity in lawsuit over the murder

Azmi Haroun,John Haltiwanger   

Khashoggi's fiancée says the slain journalist 'died again' after Biden argued for MBS to have immunity in lawsuit over the murder
  • The fiancée of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi criticized the Biden administration on Thursday.
  • The Biden admin. argued that the Saudi Crown Prince deserves immunity, per international law.

The ex-fiancée of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Thursday blasted the Biden administration for arguing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman should be immune from a lawsuit over the brutal murder.

Hatice Cengiz, who has been a steady critic of the Biden administration's ongoing ties with the Saudi regime, tweeted Thursday that Khashoggi "died again" due to the US government's willingness to grant Prince Mohammed immunity.

"We thought maybe there would be a light to justice from #USA," Cengiz tweeted. "Jamal died again today."

The Justice Department made the controversial argument for Crown Prince Mohammed's immunity in a court filing on Thursday in response to a civil lawsuit brought against Prince Mohammed by Cengiz.

Cengiz said that the US government's backtracking on holding the Saudi leader accountable added insult to injury.

Similarly, Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan on Friday said that the Biden administration's move to grant immunity to Prince Mohammed provided a "license to kill to one of the world's most egregious human-rights abusers."

Prince Mohammed, commonly referred to as MBS, in September was named prime minister of Saudi Arabia — a move that experts said would help shield the Saudi leader from the lawsuit. MBS was already considered the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia when he was named prime minister, but was not entitled to sovereign immunity — a protection generally afforded to world leaders — when he was just Crown Prince.

The Justice Department contended that since MBS is prime minister of Saudi Arabia he is "the sitting head of government" of the kingdom and "is immune from this suit."

"The United States government has expressed grave concerns regarding Jamal Khashoggi's horrific killing and has raised these concerns publicly and with the most senior levels of the Saudi government," the Department of Justice said in its filing. "However, the doctrine of head of state immunity is well established in customary international law."

The State Department in the filing said it "takes no view on the merits of the present suit and reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi."

The Biden administration in 2021 released a declassified intelligence report that explicitly impliciated MBS in Khashoggi's gruesome murder, which occurred at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. "We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," said the report, provided by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The Biden administration slapped sanctions on a number of Saudi individuals in concert with the release of the report, though MBS did not face any economic penalties.

President Joe Biden has faced a wave of backlash over his approach to US-Saudi relations. Biden pledged to make the oil-rich country a "pariah" over Khashoggi's murder while on the campaign trail. And when he came into office, Biden vowed to recalibrate the relationship between Washington and Riyadh — including by ending US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

But between his ongoing interactions with MBS and continued US arms sales to the kingdom, Biden has been accused of failing to make good on these promises.

In July, Biden met with and fist-bumped MBS less than a month after saying he wouldn't meet with him.

"I'm not going to meet with MBS," Biden told reporters in June. "I'm going to an international meeting, and he's going to be part of it."

July's meeting was part of Biden's first trip to the Middle East as president, and came as he sought to convince the Saudis to increase oil production amid a global energy crisis tied to Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine.

Khashoggi's fiancée also criticized the meeting between Biden and MBS, sharing a tweet captioned, "What Jamal Khashoggi would tweet today."

"Hey @POTUS, Is this the accountability you promised for my murder? The blood of MBS' next victim is on your hands," the fake tweet read.

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