Washington: The US has determined that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has immunity from a lawsuit over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the government in Riyadh, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, BBC reports.
US intelligence has said it believes Prince Mohammed ordered the killing.
But in court filings, the US State department said he has immunity due to his new role as Saudi Prime Minister, the BBC reported.
“The doctrine of head of state immunity is well established in customary international law,” said Justice Department lawyers in a document filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia.
The 37-year-old was handed the role in September and denies any role in the killing of Khashoggi.
But the Biden administration was keen to emphasise that the ruling was not a determination of innocence, the report said.
“This is a legal determination made by the State Department under longstanding and well-established principles of customary international law,” a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said in a written statement. “It has nothing to do with the merits of the case.”
Khashoggi’s ex-fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, wrote on Twitter that “Jamal died again today” with the ruling.
Saudi Arabia said the former Washington Post journalist had been killed in a “rogue operation” by a team of agents sent to persuade him to return to the kingdom.
However, US officials said the CIA had concluded, “with a medium to high degree of certainty”, that MBS — as the prince is known — was complicit.
The murder caused a global uproar and damaged the image of Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.