U.S. President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as pictured in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 16, 2022. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

CPJ condemns Biden administration decision that Saudi crown prince has immunity in U.S. Khashoggi lawsuit

New York, November 18, 2022 – In response to news reports that the Biden administration told a U.S. court late Thursday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should be immune in a civil lawsuit over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, CPJ issued the following statement condemning the decision: 

“The Biden administration’s submission that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman qualifies for immunity from prosecution is a shameful climbdown from any semblance of justice for journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “The U.S. government should not throw a wrench in the workings of justice by trying to prevent this case moving forward.” 

Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, and Democracy for the Arab World Now – the advocacy group Khashoggi founded – are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in U.S. district court against bin Salman and his alleged accomplices for the journalist’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. U.S. intelligence have said the murder was likely approved by the crown prince. The Biden administration said in its filing that because the crown prince was made prime minister in September, he is now “the sitting head of government and, accordingly, immune,” The Guardian reported. The filing may lead judge John Bates to dismiss the case, the newspaper said. 

In October, CPJ joined the Knight Institute to file a FOIA request asking for the U.S. government to fully declassify an intelligence report on Khashoggi’s murder. The U.S. government released some of its findings in February 2021.