Friday, 03 Feb 2023

Mohammed bin Salman accused of attempt to manipulate US court system

Mohammed bin Salman accused of attempt to manipulate US court system


Mohammed bin Salman accused of attempt to manipulate US court system

A lawyer for Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi, has accused Mohammed bin Salman of engaging in an unprecedented and blatant attempt to "manipulate" the US court system in order to "secure impunity" after allegedly ordering the 2018 murder of the journalist.

In a blistering 10-page legal filing, lawyer Keith Harper, who represents Cengiz and the pro-democracy group Dawn in a US civil case against the Saudi crown prince, urged Judge John Bates to reject a controversial suggestion by the Biden administration that Prince Mohammed be granted sovereign immunity in the case.

Harper said that while it was customary for judges to defer to the executive branch on judgments of whether foreign leaders should be granted head-of-state immunity, this case "differs fundamentally" because - he said - Saudis had engaged in a legal manoeuvre that had no precedent "in the history of international law".

"In this rarest of cases, the court should decline to shield MBS for his ordering of the murder of US-resident Jamal Khashoggi," the filing said.

Cengiz and Dawn sued Prince Mohammed and his associates in 2020, accusing him of conspiring with premeditation to kidnap, torture and murder Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Prince Mohammed's lawyer, Michael Kellogg - who has represented Saudi Arabia since the 9/11 attacks on the US - has argued that Cengiz did not have standing to bring the case against his client, whether or not one believed he was guilty of ordering the murder.

In June, Judge Bates asked the Biden administration to weigh in on the matter, and invited the US government to give its own opinion about whether the crown prince deserved to be treated as a head of government or state, which in most cases would lead the case to be dismissed.

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