Khashoggi's fiancée, human rights group sue Saudi crown prince in US for murder

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Demonstrators dressed as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US President Donald Trump protest against the grisly murder of US-based Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the White House on October 19, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The fiancée of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and a human rights group he founded have filed a lawsuit at a US court against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), accusing him of ordering the dissident’s murder at Riyadh’s consulate in Turkey.

The lawsuit was filed in Washington DC on Tuesday on behalf of Hatice Cengiz and Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) – the human rights organization that Khashoggi founded shortly before his death.

It singled out MbS, the de facto ruler of the conservative Persian Gulf kingdom, and over 20 other officials, accusing them of a “brutal and brazen crime” that was the result of “weeks of planning” and premeditation.

The lawsuit said Khashoggi — who lived in the US in self-imposed exile — was murdered “pursuant to a directive of defendant Mohammed bin Salman.”

The lawsuit charged that the Saudi crown prince, his co-defendants and others carried out a plot to “permanently silence Mr. Khashoggi” no later than the summer of 2018 after discovering his “plans to utilize DAWN as a platform to espouse democratic reform and promote human rights.”

“The objective of the murder was clear — to halt Mr Khashoggi’s advocacy in the United States... for democratic reform in the Arab world,” it added.

It noted that Khashoggi was the victim of a ruse that first started at the Saudi embassy in Washington DC when he went there to obtain documents to marry Cengiz, a Turkish national.

The lawsuit accused bin Salman and Saudi officials of having “manufactured an opportunity to murder him,” which saw officials at Riyadh’s US embassy tell Khashoggi he could not receive the documents in the States and would instead have to travel to Turkey's metropolis Istanbul to get them at the Saudi consulate there.

Khashoggi disappeared on October 2, 2018 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to seek the documents that would allow him to marry Cengiz, who was waiting outside the building. He never emerged.

Turkish officials say Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the consulate by a Saudi hit team. His remains have not been found so far.

“The suit seeks to hold accountable those responsible for the brutal premeditated kidnapping, torture, assassination and dismemberment of a US resident, Mr. Khashoggi,” said Keith M. Harper, a lawyer for Ms. Cengiz, at a news conference. “This lawsuit is also a search for the entire truth.”

The American CIA spy agency and intelligence services of other countries have said the evidence altogether demonstrated bin Salman’s culpability.

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who investigated Khashoggi’s murder, has also said “credible evidence” links the Saudi crown prince to the killing of the Washington Post journalist and said he should be investigated.

Another lawsuit was also filed against bin Salman in August in a US court by a former top Saudi intelligence official, Sa’ad al-Jabri, who accused the crown prince of sending a hit team to kill him in Canada, where he lives in exile.

Ever since bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler in 2017, the kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations.

Muslim scholars have been executed, women’s rights campaigners – including Loujain al-Hathloul – have been put behind bars and tortured, and freedom of expression, association and belief continue to be denied in the kingdom.

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