Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee sues Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman | World news

The fiancee of the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is suing the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and two dozen other Saudis in the US courts, accusing them of direct involvement in the dissident’s gruesome killing in Istanbul two years ago.

Hatice Cengiz and Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn), a Washington-based rights group set up by Khashoggi shortly before his death, filed a lawsuit in the US district court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday seeking unspecified damages against the kingdom’s de facto leader and 28 “co-conspirators” over the killing.

Khashoggi broke with the Saudi elite in 2017 and moved to the US, where he began to write critically about Saudi government policy as a columnist for the Washington Post.

He disappeared while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 to pick up paperwork for his marriage to Cengiz. His remains have never been located or returned.

After a series of shifting explanations, Riyadh admitted the 59-year-old had been killed by Saudi agents in what it says was an extradition operation gone wrong. The CIA and other western intelligence agencies concluded that Prince Mohammed directly ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, although Donald Trump himself defended the crown prince.

Despite the prince’s strenuous denial of any involvement, the journalist’s death has nonetheless sullied his preferred image as a liberal reformer.

While suing Prince Mohammed in a US federal court poses logistical difficulties, Cengiz and Dawn’s co-founders hope the suit can compel US agencies and officials to disclose new information about what happened to Khashoggi.

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The lawsuit alleges that the crown prince and his co-conspirators ordered the abduction, torture, murder, dismemberment, and disappearance of the journalist “for the purpose of silencing and preventing him from continuing his efforts in the United States as a voice for democratisation in the Middle East”.

Hatice Cengiz

Hatice Cengiz is hoping the lawsuit can compel US agencies to disclose new information about what happened to Khashoggi. Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

Cengiz is also claiming personal injury and financial losses, which will be determined by a jury at trial.

“I am hopeful that we can achieve truth and justice for Jamal through this lawsuit,” Cengiz said in a statement. “I place my trust in the American civil justice system to give voice to what happened and hold those who did this accountable for their actions.”

Dawn’s executive director, Sarah Leah Whitson, added: “Jamal’s death only strengthens our resolve to continue with our critical work – to promote liberty, human rights, dignity, the rule of law, and justice in the Arab world and throughout the world.”

Despite international outrage over Khashoggi’s killing, efforts at justice to date have been severely lacking.

A secretive Saudi trial – from which UN investigators were barred – sentenced five people to death for “directly participating in the murder” in December 2019, but effectively exonerated the crown prince and his inner circle of involvement. Last month, Saudi state media reported that the five death sentences had been commuted to 20-year jail terms.

A separate Turkish trial of 25 Saudi officials in absentia, which opened in Istanbul in July, has been widely viewed as an opportunity for Ankara to exert pressure on its regional rivals in Riyadh.

Cengiz, Dawn and Agnès Callamard, the UN special rapporteur who authored a 2019 report into Khashoggi’s killing, are among those still calling for an independent international investigation.


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