WASHINGTON, D.C. – Responding to news that the Biden administration has urged a federal court to grant immunity to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in a U.S. lawsuit over his role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Executive Director of the Freedom Initiative Andrea Prasow said: 

“Coming on the heels of Biden’s literal embrace of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Egypt last week, the decision to support immunity for MBS risks solidifying a U.S. approach that coddles and rewards autocrats and dictators, rather than isolates them. There is still time for the Biden administration to fulfill its pledge to center human rights in U.S. foreign policy, but the clock is ticking.” 

“At a time when abusive foreign governments are increasing their harassment of their citizens outside their own borders, this move sends a dangerous message that as long as their repressive tactics are committed at the highest levels, they can commit crimes with impunity, even on U.S. soil,” added Prasow. 

The Department of State submitted a letter late Thursday evening declaring that MBS, as the Crown Prince is known,  – who was appointed prime minister in September this year – should be immune from the suit, which is being pursued by his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, and the NGO Democracy for the Arab World Now, in a Washington, D.C. federal court. The decision on immunity is still pending and will be determined by the judge. 

The move also comes as Saudi Arabia continues to target U.S. citizens within its borders. In recent weeks, three American citizens – Carly Morris, Mohamed Salem, and Saad Al-Madi – were detained or sentenced to prison. 

Allison McManus, Research Director of the Freedom Initiative, added: 

“What is particularly appalling about this move is that the administration could have simply stayed silent and allowed the courts to determine immunity. Instead, it chose to side in favor of one of the world’s most brutal dictators. Not only does this decision undermine Biden’s stated commitments to human rights, but it also puts Americans at risk, making clear that there will be no consequences if they are detained, torture or even killed at MBS’ behest.” 

For more information or to set up an interview, contact kristen@thefreedomi.org.