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International News

Jamal Khashoggi's Fiancee Sues Saudi Crown Prince in His Death in US Court

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Jamal Khashoggi's Fiancee Sues Saudi Crown Prince in His Death in US Court

2020-10-21 14:33:58

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer: Image: Jamal Khashoggi (Image source: Alfagih at Arabic Wikipedia)

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have thought he beat the rap for Jamal Khashoggi's murder, but they're still coming after him. While the people the Middle Eastern nation has determined were liable have been found guilty, Khashoggi's fiancée and a human rights organization he founded have accused the crown prince of ordering the Washington Post journalist's death to "permanently silence" him.

Hatice Cengiz and Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday in Washington, D.C. They alleged that Khashoggi was tortured, murdered, and dismembered "pursuant to a directive of Defendant Mohammed bin Salman."

The suit alleges that along with 24 co-defendants, the crown prince "saw Khashoggi's actions in the United States as an existential threat to their pecuniary and other interests and, accordingly, conspired to commit the heinous acts that are the subject of this suit."

Khashoggi had been writing articles for the Post that were critical of the crown prince. On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents he'd need to marry Cengiz. While she waited in the car, he entered the consulate and was never seen again.

His disappearance and presumed death and dismemberment were first revealed by the Turkish government. The lawsuit alleges that he was killed by the government's agents because of his visibility as an exile and dissident. He had also started DAWN to expose the abuses of Middle Eastern governments, specifically Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, three Arab nations that are close to the Trump administration.

Cengiz and DAWN are represented by attorneys Keith M. Harper and Faisal Gill. The two said in a videoconference on Tuesday that the lawsuit's focus is to have a United States court of law hold the crown prince liable for the murder and gather documents in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. that will show the truth of what happened that day.

Cengiz spoke in the videoconference as well and said her late fiancée had advocated for democracy in the Middle East and human rights for all, "and especially because he advocated them in the United States, Mohammed bin Salman murdered him."

"Certainly, no one behind this much gruesome murder should have any role in becoming monarch," continued Cengiz. "I ask the United States government — a nation that has stood for justice, accountability, and human rights — I ask that you stand with me and all those who loved Jamal and say, 'We will support your efforts to fully uncover the truth and ensure that those responsible are found liable in a court of law.' "

The crown prince has consistently denied ordering the killing of the journalist. Saudi officials have suggested that Khashoggi's death was an accident and that rogue agents were responsible after they disobeyed orders to convince Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia.

Donald Trump has refused to consider holding the crown price accountable, mentioning at one point it was because of an expensive arms deal he'd entered into with the Saudis. "I was able to get Congress to leave him alone," Trump bragged to journalist Bob Woodward of the crown prince.

However, the CIA investigated and determined in 2018 that the crown prince had ordered Khashoggi's murder.

The kingdom prosecuted several people, some of them government officials, for the killing. Human rights groups criticized this legal action because the court sessions were closed to the public, and no senior officials were held accountable.

Attorneys for Cengiz and DAWN allege in the lawsuit that Saudi officials banned Khashoggi from speaking and writing publicly after he'd been critical of Trump when he was still president-elect on November 10, 2016.

"Furthermore, after Mr. Khashoggi warned on Twitter that Saudis should be wary of Trump, [defendant Saud al-Qahtani, media adviser to the crown prince] informed him that he was 'not allowed to tweet, not allowed to write, not allowed to talk' and added, 'You can't do anything anymore — you're done,' " claims the lawsuit.

A connection to Khashoggi's work in the U.S is key to the lawsuit, as it must be established that any conspiracy in his death occurred in the U.S.

Typically, foreign leaders are immune from civil suits in U.S. courts while they remain in office. However, the plaintiffs are suing under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act. The latter law allows recourse in U.S. courts for violations of international law and for victims of "flagrant human rights violations."

Gill and Harper contended in the news conference that the crown prince is neither the head of state nor the head of the Saudi government.

The lawsuit asserts that at the crown prince's direction, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. assured Khashoggi it would be safe for him to enter the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get the documents he needed. This set the plan to kill him in motion.

"Defendants' actions were also purposefully aimed at the United States, as Mr. Khashoggi was a U.S.-resident journalist and human rights advocate," alleged the suit. "Defendants acted with the intent to lure Mr. Khashoggi outside of the United States and murder him." 

There was a similar complaint filed two months ago in Washington by Saad Aljabri, a former top Saudi intelligence officer and also a close ally of U.S. intelligence. Aljabri accused the crown prince of orchestrating a conspiracy that targeted him to be assassinated and took his children hostage because he knows damaging secrets about the prince.

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