Washington, United States (AFP):
The White House has denied that it was seeking to bolster bilateral ties with Riyadh in the wake of a recent US government court filing that grants immunity to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s 2018 murder.
“This legal determination has absolutely nothing to do with the merits of the case itself,” said White House national security spokesman John Kirby, referring to the civil lawsuit against the crown prince and other Saudis by Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz.
Moreover, the determination “has absolutely nothing to do with the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia, which as you know, is tense right now,” he said. He was referring to Riyadh’s recent support for the OPEC cartel’s decreased oil output, which angered Washington.
President Joe Biden “has been very, very clear- very vocally so- about the brutal and barbaric murder of Mr. Khashoggi,” Kirby said.
The White House reaction comes as Amnesty International blasted the Biden administration over granting immunity to the prince, calling the act “a deep betrayal.”
“The US government should hang its head in shame. This is nothing more than a sickening, total, deep betrayal,” Amnesty’s Secretary General Agnes Callamard said in a statement.
“First the evidence of the Crown Prince’s involvement in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was disregarded by President Trump, then President Biden’s fist bump — it all suggests shady deals made throughout.”
The publisher of the Washington Post, the US paper Khashoggi had contributed to, also slammed the decision.
Fred Ryan, the paper’s publisher and CEO, said in a statement that Biden was “granting a license to kill to one of the world’s most egregious human-rights abusers who is responsible for the cold-blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post Columnist.”
However, White House spokesman Kirby insisted that Biden “has worked to hold the regime accountable.”
The grotesque killing four years ago of Khashoggi, a Saudi insider-turned-critic, in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate temporarily turned Prince Mohammed bin Salman into a pariah in the West.