Mohammed bin Salman
Mohammed bin SalmanReuters

A US judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his alleged role in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, AFP reported.

Washington federal judge John Bates thus accepted a US government's stance that the Saudi Crown Prince enjoys immunity in US courts as a foreign head of state.

Bates said the civil suit filed by Khashoggi's widow Hatice Cengiz and his activist group DAWN made a "strong" and "meritorious" argument that Prince Mohammed was behind the murder.

However, he ruled that he had no power to reject the US government's official stance, submitted in a formal statement to the court on November 17, that the prince had immunity as a foreign leader.

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, after initially denying Turkish claims that he was murdered.

An intelligence report released in February of 2021 by the Biden administration said that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved Khashoggi’s murder.

The judge said that if the prince was named prime minister just weeks ago, the US government's executive branch "remains responsible for foreign affairs, including with Saudi Arabia, and a contrary decision on bin Salman’s immunity by this Court would unduly interfere with those responsibilities."

He said the "credible" allegations of the murder, the timing of prince's being named prime minister, and timing of the US government's submission, left him with "uneasiness."

However, Bates said he had no other choice in the case.

Khashoggi’s murder resulted in tensions between lawmakers and the White House. Then-President Donald Trump had reaffirmed his support for Saudi Arabia, despite the murder of Khashoggi, insisting the US-Saudi Arabian alliance is beneficial not only for American interests, but also for those of Israel.

Lawmakers from both parties, meanwhile, had called for a strong US response to Khashoggi's murder.

President Joe Biden, who had sought to recalibrate relations with the Saudis following the murder, appeared to take back his earlier position when he traveled to Saudi Arabia in July, in a move seen as partially aiming to put the murder case behind.

Nevertheless, while there Biden made mention of it in his talks with the crown prince, calling the murder "outrageous."