US says immunity to Saudi prince was legal mandate, review of ties still being discussed

The US government reiterated this Friday () that there are still tensions in bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia and argued that the decision to recommend immunity to the crown prince of the kingdom, Mohammad bin Salman, in the lawsuit filed against him in the United States for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was the result of a legal determination.

The spokesperson for the National Security Council of White House President John Kirby said in a telephone news conference that “this is a legal determination, it has absolutely nothing to do with the merits of the case itself.”

“It is a legal determination required by the Department of State and provided by the Department of Justice at the request of the court”, it considered.

On Thursday () at In the evening, the US Department of Justice presented a legal document to the federal court for the District of Columbia, in which the Washington government recommends that bin Salman be declared immune, given his condition as Saudi prime minister, in the case of the death of Khashoggi, assassinated in 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

In September, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz appointed his son and crown prince as prime minister, in a move that shielded him from prosecution in the US, where Khashoggi’s girlfriend, Hatice Cengiz, has filed suit against him.

Months earlier, in July, Biden had visited the Arab country to convince it to increase oil production to reduce prices in a context of scarcity caused by the war in Ukraine, but in October Riyadh decided to align itself with Russia in OPEC+ and opted to lower it.

In light of this decision, the Biden government said it would reassess its ties with Saudi Arabia. In this context, Kirby reiterated this Friday that relations with the Saudi kingdom remain tense to this day.

“Nothing has changed the president’s point of view that this review it is necessary,” said the spokesperson, who noted that Biden is aware of the US legal process against bin Salman and the court document filed Thursday night by his administration.

Kirby emphasized that “the president was very, very clear about the brutal and barbaric murder of Mr Khashoggi”.

In its court filing, the US government “informs the court that the defendant Mohammad bin Salman , Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the leader of the government and, consequently, is immune from this process”.

From the State Department, Deputy Foreign Spokesperson , Vedant Patel, explained at a press conference that the US applies this principle to heads of state and government of other countries.

“It has nothing to do with the merits of the case, the determination of immunity is lawful. The US has consistently applied these principles to heads of state, government and foreign ministers during their tenure while in office,” noted Patel.

Deputy Foreign Spokesperson he stressed that this is a practice that has not been broken and is something that the US hopes that other countries will do.

Questioned about what would happen in the case of the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, Patel highlighted that the US does not consider him head of state or government.

According to the CIA, it is proven that bin Salman “approved an operation in Istanbul to capture or kill” the Saudi journalist because he was seen as a maverick whose activities undermined the monarchy.

Khashoggi wrote columns for The Washington Post and other media criticizing the crown prince, who, as de facto ruler even before his father appointing him prime minister, cracked down on rivals and dissidents.

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