In Brief

Mohammed bin Salman facing criminal case over Jamal Khashoggi death

Case filed in Germany accuses Saudi crown prince of ‘crimes against humanity’ over persecution of journalists

Mohammed bin Salman has been accused of committing crimes against humanity in a newly filed lawsuit against the prince and and senior Saudi officials.

The 500-page criminal complaint was filed in Germany by press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and focuses on “widespread and systematic” persecution of journalists in Saudi Arabia, including the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.

More specifically, the complaint accuses the Saudi royal, also known as MBS, “and his aides of a campaign of unlawful killing, torture, enforced disappearance and persecution against 35 journalists, 34 of whom are in detention in Saudi Arabia”, The Times reports.

The lawsuit is being launched just days after Joe Biden’s administration published a long-suppressed intelligence report into the murder of Khashoggi which found that bin Salman approved the decision to kill The Washington Post columnist - a claim that the Saudi government has repeatedly denied.

“The US announced visa bans for those responsible for the persecution of journalists and dissidents but stopped short of issuing any punishment for MBS, prompting criticism that he was being let off scot-free,” The Times adds.

Announcing the newly filed criminal case, RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire said that “those responsible for the persecution of journalists in Saudi Arabia, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, must be held accountable for their crimes”.

“The urgent need for justice is long overdue,” Deloire told a press conference yesterday.

His Paris-based group has filed the complaint in Germany because the country’s “law allows prosecutors to claim universal jurisdiction in crimes against humanity”, explains The Washington Post. A German court last week convicted a former member of Bashar al-Assad’s secret police for his involvement in torture in Syria.

However, the case involved a defendant living in Germany, which does not permit trial in absentia. And German law also states that “prosecutors can decline to pursue a case under the principle of universal jurisdiction if there is no reasonable expectation that the defendant can be brought to Germany”, says the paper. 

The country’s prosecutor’s office “said it had received the complaint and was assessing its legal and factual merits”, The Guardian reports.

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