Blinken says immunity for bin Salman does not speak to ‘current state’ of US-Saudi relations: ‘Legal matter’

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday defended the administration’s decision to grant immunity to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but said the opinion based on “long-standing legal practice” did not reflect the “current state ” of US-Saudi relations.

It was a “legal matter,” Blinken told reporters in Qatar.

The secretary of state said that given his new position as Saudi prime minister, as “head of state”, bin Salman was legally “entitled to immunity” from legal challenges he faced over his alleged role in the brutal killing of people based in the United States. Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, pictured, holds a press conference with Qatar's foreign minister in the capital Doha on November 22, 2022.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, pictured, holds a press conference with Qatar’s foreign minister in the capital Doha on November 22, 2022.
(KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images)

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY EXPLAINS DECISION TO SEEK IMMUNITY FOR CROWN PRINCE IN KHASHOGGI ASSASSINATION

The administration’s decision was made in response to a lawsuit filed against the crown prince by Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee, in 2020 alleging that the prince and 28 others “kidnapped, bound, drugged, tortured and murder” Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul before dismembering his body.

Khashoggi’s body was never recovered.

“This is a determination we’ve made in dozens, hundreds of cases over the years. And in every case, we simply follow the law,” Blinken said, referring to the decision issued Thursday by the State Department.

President Biden in 2019 called the alleged killing of Khashoggi, who criticized bin Salman, “total murder” and a US intelligence report released in February 2021 found that the crown prince approved the capture that led to the death of the Washington Post. journalist

People hold posters of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi near the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2020, marking the two-year anniversary of his death.

People hold posters of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi near the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2020, marking the two-year anniversary of his death.
(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, file)

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SEEKS IMMUNITY FOR SAUDI CHRON PRINCE IN KHASHOGGI ASSASSINATION: ‘BEYOND IRONIC’

The Biden administration then announced a “Khashoggi ban” that restricted visas for anyone directly involved in “serious and extraterritorial counter-dissident activities, including those that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten or harm journalists, activists or other people perceived as”. be dissidents for their work.”

The ban was not limited to people involved in Khashoggi’s murder.

The Biden administration received swift backlash after last week’s announcement, including Washington Post editor-in-chief Fred Ryan who said the decision essentially gave the Saudi royal family a “license to kill.” .

President Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrive for a family photo during the Jeddah Security and Development Summit at a hotel in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah on July 16, 2022 .

President Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrive for a family photo during the Jeddah Security and Development Summit at a hotel in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah on July 16, 2022 .
(MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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On Tuesday, Blinken sought to set the record straight, saying the decision was based on a judicial opinion and “in no way speaks to the merits of the case” or the “current state of the bilateral relationship.”

“Our review of this relationship is ongoing,” he added.

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