Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Saudi Leaders Sued in US Court Over Khashoggi Killing

The fiancée of murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi filed a lawsuit in Washington federal court Tuesday blaming Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and over two dozen other Saudi officials for his 2018 killing.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The fiancée of murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi filed a lawsuit in Washington federal court Tuesday blaming Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and over two dozen other Saudi officials for his 2018 killing.

“The ruthless torture and murder of Mr. Khashoggi shocked the conscience of people throughout the world,” Hatice Cengiz’s 61-page complaint states. “The objective of the murder was clear – to halt Mr. Khashoggi’s advocacy in the United States … for democratic reform in the Arab world.”

In October 2018, Khashoggi – a Saudi citizen who was living in the U.S. penning columns critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – disappeared inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials reported having audio and video recordings of Khashoggi’s murder and dismemberment at the hands of Saudi agents.

President Donald Trump said shortly after the killing that bin Salman denied any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi, but the CIA concluded alongside Turkish intelligence officials that the crown prince had ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

Trump sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with bin Salman over the killing, and the White House said in January 2019 that it expected Saudi Arabia to hold everyone responsible for the journalist’s death accountable.

Later that year, the kingdom sentenced five to death, although no names were given alongside that verdict. Three others were given prison terms totaling 24 years.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia comes on the heels of the two-year anniversary of Khashoggi’s death. The nonprofit advocacy group Democracy for the Arab World Now, or DAWN, joined Cengiz in her complaint.

“I am hopeful that we can achieve truth and justice for Jamal through this lawsuit,” Cengiz said in a statement Tuesday. “Jamal believed anything was possible in America and I place my trust in the American civil justice system to obtain a measure of justice and accountability.”

The lawsuit alleges 11 men prepared to meet Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate the night of his murder. The journalist was there to get documents from a marriage license with Cengiz.

Recordings by Turkish intelligence allegedly captured a sinister conversation between Maher Abdulaziz M. Mutreb, a prominent aide to bin Salman, and Salah Mohammed Abdah Tubaigy, the former Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics leader, discussing how to remove Khashoggi’s body parts from the consulate before he even arrived.

“Defendant Tubaigy expressed his view that dismembering Mr. Khashoggi would not be difficult and stated summarily, ‘[j]oints will be separated. It is not a problem. The body is heavy. First time I cut on the ground. If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them,’” the complaint states.

Bin Salman, along with his alleged co-conspirators, are accused of extrajudicial killing in violation of the Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act. Cengiz also asserts counts of tortious interference of contract, wrongful death and infliction of emotional distress.

“This objectives of this lawsuit are two-fold -- accountability for the perpetrators of the heinous torture and murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based democracy advocate and journalist, as well as to determine through the judicial processes, the whole truth,” said Keith Harper, a Jenner & Block attorney who represents Cengiz, in a statement.

Sarah Leah Whitson, DAWN’s executive director, said in a statement Tuesday the Khashoggi’s murder “only strengthens our resolve to continue with our critical work.” She said his legacy is “to promote liberty, human rights, dignity, the rule of law, and justice in the Middle East and throughout the world.”

Categories / Government, International, Media

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.