WASHINGTON (AP) — A US federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, bowing to the Biden administration’s insistence that the prince take legal action in the case. were immune.

District of Columbia US District Judge John D. Bates noted the US government’s motion to shield Prince Mohammed from trial despite what Bates called “credible allegations of his involvement in Khashoggi’s murder”.

Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 by a team of Saudi officers. Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, criticized the harsh methods of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Prince Mohammed.

The US intelligence community concluded that the Saudi Crown Prince ordered the operation against Khashoggi. The killing opened a rift between the Biden administration and Saudi Arabia that the administration has tried to close in recent months, as the US unsuccessfully urged it to undo oil production cuts in a global market hit by the Ukraine war. was.

Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate to obtain the necessary documents for his upcoming marriage. The lawsuit was brought by his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who was unknowingly waiting outside the consulate when he was killed, and a rights group founded by Khashoggi before his death. Two of the prince’s top aides were also named as accomplices in the trial.

The Biden administration, which was invited but not ordered by the judge to give an opinion on the matter, declared last month that Prince Mohammed’s standing as Saudi Arabia’s prime minister had exempted him from the US lawsuit. granted sovereign immunity.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman weeks ago named his son Prince Mohammed as prime minister. This was a temporary exemption from the state’s governing code, which makes the king prime minister.

Khashoggi’s fiancee and his rights group argued that the move was a ploy to protect the prince from a US court.

Bates expressed “discomfort” with the circumstances of Prince Mohammed’s new title, and wrote in Tuesday’s order that “there is a strong argument that Plaintiffs’ claims against bin Salman and the other defendants have merit.”

But the government’s finding that Prince Mohammed was immune, the judge wrote, left him no choice but to dismiss the prince as a plaintiff. He also dismissed two other Saudi plaintiffs, saying the US court lacked jurisdiction over them.

The Biden administration argued long-standing legal precedent on immunity for heads of government from courts in other countries protected the prince as prime minister under certain circumstances, even though the prince had only recently obtained the title. Have you done

The Biden administration had already exempted Prince Mohammed from government penalties in the matter, citing sovereign immunity. Rights groups and Saudi exiles argued that shielding Prince Mohammed from liability in Khashoggi’s killing would give the crown prince and other authoritarian rulers around the world a green light for future abuses.

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