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Biden ‘aware’ of legal determination for immunity of Saudi crown prince: Official

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Nov 19, 2022 - 02:43 AM

WASHINGTON (AA) – US President Joe Biden is “aware” of a determination that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince should have legal immunity over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the White House said on Friday.

Speaking with reporters via a webinar, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said the determination had nothing to do with Washington’s relationship with Riyadh and that it was the State Department that decided to ask the Justice Department to submit the filing.

Kirby said Biden is “aware of this legal process and this legal determination,” adding that it “has absolutely nothing to do with the merits of the case itself.”

He reiterated that it was a determination requested by the State Department and provided by the Justice Department at the court’s request.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia, which as you know, is tense right now given the OPEC+ decision,” said Kirby.

His remarks came a day after reports of the Biden administration saying the status of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was recently also named prime minister of his country, as a foreign head of government should shield him from lawsuits over his role in the 2018 killing of the US-based Saudi journalist.

The administration submitted the declaration of sovereign immunity to a federal court in Washington hearing a lawsuit filed against the prince by Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, and the Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) rights group that Khashoggi had founded, over bin Salman’s alleged role in the killing in Istanbul, Türkiye.

The Saudi prince has repeatedly denied any involvement in the murder. The Biden administration’s opinion is not binding on the judge hearing the case, who will have the ultimate say.

Saudi officials allegedly killed Khashoggi and then dismembered his body at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. His remains have never been found.

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