Middle East/North Africa

Trump administration considering immunity for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: report

The U.S. State Department is reportedly considering immunity for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a lawsuit accusing him of attempting to have a former Saudi intelligence official assassinated.

Saad Aljabri, a longtime aide to former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, went public with his claims in August. His federal lawsuit alleges the crown prince dispatched a hit squad to Canada, where Aljabri lives in exile, and that border officials prevented them from entering the country.

Aljabri alleges the men were sent to kill him within days of the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi government filed an Interpol notice asking other countries’ law enforcement to arrest and extradite Aljabri, accusing him of corruption and using his office to enrich himself.

In November, State Department officials requested information from Aljabri’s lawyers on their views on Riyadh’s immunity request for Crown Prince Mohammed, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. It remains unclear whether the department will ultimately recommend immunity, or whether a decision will be made before President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January.

President Trump is known to have a positive relationship with the crown prince and has publicly expressed skepticism that he ordered Khashoggi’s killing, despite the conclusion of several international intelligence agencies. Trump also vetoed a resolution that passed Congress with bipartisan support calling for the U.S. to end its backing of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

Biden, in contrast, has been a vocal critic of the crown prince and pledged to end U.S. support of the war as president.

Aljabri’s son Khalid told the Times that he fears Riyadh would view any immunity as carte blanche to make further attempts on his father’s life.

“It’s a really dangerous thing,” he told the newspaper. “It will be the equivalent of giving a U.S.-issued license to kill.”

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill the department does not comment on pending litigation.

— Updated at 9:09 a.m.

Tags Donald Trump Jamal Khashoggi Joe Biden Mohammed bin Salman
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