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Semafor LogoJenna Moon
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US grants Saudi Crown Prince immunity in journalist murder case

Jenna Moon is a Breaking News reporter. You can reach her at jmoon@semafor.com. Sign up for Flagship, our daily newsletter that distills what’s happening in the world into a concise, insightful morning read.

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The U.S. has granted Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman diplomatic immunity in a case brought against him by murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee.

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman attends the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, November. 15, 2022.
Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS
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Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi regime, was murdered by Saudi officials at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in 2018. U.S. intelligence has said it believes Prince Mohammed ordered his killing.

In September the crown prince, already de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, was appointed as the kingdom's prime minister — allowing him diplomatic immunity rights under international law.

“This is a legal determination made by the State Department under longstanding and well-established principles of customary international law,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement after the ruling. “It has nothing to do with the merits of the case.”

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Writing on Twitter in response to the ruling, Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz wrote: “Jamal died again today.”

She had brought forward the suit together with the rights group Khashoggi founded, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).

Prince Mohammed, also known as MBS for his initials, has denied any role in the murder. Khashoggi often wrote critical opinion pieces for the Washington Post about the crown prince’s policies.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of DAWN, tweeted that it was a “remarkable act of weakness by the Biden admin to offer up a voluntary concession to MBS in face of insults and betrayals.”

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