The recommendation sparked fury among supporters of Cengiz’s action, including representatives of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), the US-based NGO that Khashoggi founded.
“The Biden admin went out of its way to recommend immunity for MBS and shield him from accountability,” said DAWN’s executive director Sarah Leah Whitson.
“Now that Biden has declared he’s got total impunity, we can expect MBS’s attacks against people in our country to escalate even further.”
Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, called the recommendation a “deep betrayal”.
Prince Mohammed, who has been the kingdom’s de facto ruler for several years, previously served as deputy prime minister as well as defence minister under his father King Salman.
After a period of relative isolation following the Khashoggi killing, he was welcomed back on the world stage this year, notably by President Biden, who travelled to Saudi Arabia in July despite an earlier pledge to make the kingdom a “pariah”.
Thursday’s recommendation gave the leader “a license to kill”, said Khalid al-Jabri, son of Saad al-Jabri, a former Saudi spymaster who has accused the prince of sending a hit squad to try to kill him in Canada.
“After breaking its pledge to punish MBS for Khashoggi’s assassination, the Biden administration has not only shielded MBS from accountability in US courts, but rendered him more dangerous than ever with a license to kill more detractors without consequences,” he said.
Last year, Biden declassified an intelligence report that found Prince Mohammed had approved the operation against Khashoggi, an assertion Saudi authorities deny.
In the civil case, brought by Cengiz and DAWN, the plaintiffs allege that Prince Mohammed and more than 20 co-defendants, “acting in a conspiracy and with premeditation, kidnapped, bound, drugged, tortured, and assassinated” Khashoggi, a columnist with the Washington Post.
They seek punitive monetary damages, as well as to prove that the killing was ordered by “the top of the Saudi leadership hierarchy”.