The fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi has sued Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and more than two dozen aides and officials in an American court, accusing them of planning and executing the assassination.
The civil suit was filed on Tuesday by Hatice Cengiz, the late journalist’s fiancee, alongside the NGO he founded in the months before his death, Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN), both seeking unspecified damages against bin Salman and 29 Saudi officials.
“The suit seeks to hold accountable those responsible for the brutal premeditated kidnapping, torture, assassination and dismemberment of a US resident, Mr. Khashoggi,” a lawyer for Cengiz, Keith Harper, said at a news conference. “This lawsuit is also a search for the entire truth.”
The 30 defendants named in the complaint are alleged to have acted “in a conspiracy and with premeditation” to kill the Washington Post columnist, while bin Salman is accused of ordering the murder as a way to “halt Mr. Khashoggi’s advocacy in the United States, principally as the Executive Director of Plaintiff DAWN,” arguing the crown prince viewed the org as an “existential threat.”
Though bin Salman has accepted responsibility for the death, saying it “happened under my watch” as crown prince, he has repeatedly denied ordering Khashoggi’s killing himself, which he deemed a “heinous crime.”
While the Khashoggi murder originally resulted in death sentences for five suspects in a Saudi court last December, with three others facing lengthy prison sentences, the journalist’s family extended amnesty to the perpetrators in May, invoking a provision under Saudi law allowing victims’ families to pardon accused killers.
A second round of verdicts was handed down last month following a court proceeding shrouded in secrecy, in which five men were sentenced to 20 years in prison and three others up to a decade. However, Cengiz – who waited outside the Saudi consulate as her late fiance entered to obtain marriage documents, never to reemerge – blasted the far more sparing sentences as a “complete mockery of justice,” pointing to a litany of unanswered questions in the case.
“The Saudi authorities are closing the case without the world knowing the truth of who is responsible for Jamal’s murder. Who planned it, who ordered it, where is his body? These are the most basic and important questions that remain totally unanswered,” she tweeted after the new verdicts.
Cengiz’s new lawsuit was filed under the 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows for civil cases to be brought against foreign officials accused of torture or extrajudicial killings. Previous cases under the law have awarded victims large sums in damages, such as a 1995 ruling against Guatemalan Defense Minister Hector Gramajo, who was ordered to pay $5 million to his accuser.
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