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MBS denies trying to kill exiled Saudi spy chief, claims immune in US

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MBS denies trying to kill exiled Saudi spy chief, claims immune in US 2

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has denied sending a hit squad to kill a former Saudi spy chief exiled in Canada, court filings show. 
  • Saad al-Jabri sued Crown Prince Mohammed this August, claiming the crown prince tried to have him killed in Toronto in October 2018, because he was privy to state secrets.
  • On Monday, Michael Kellogg, an attorney for Crown Prince Mohammed, filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying his client would be free from prosecution as a head of state.
  • Crown Prince Mohammed accused al-Jabri of stealing money from the Saudi government, a claim the former official denies. Al-Jabri has also accused the crown prince of trying to lure him back to the kingdom by kidnapping his children.
  • Kellogg said on Monday: “Plaintiff can say whatever he wants to the newspapers. But this case does not belong in federal court.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has denied sending an elite hit squad to kill a former Saudi intelligence official exiled in Canada, and claimed that he is immune from prosecution, new court filings show.

Saad al-Jabri, a top official at the Saudi Interior Ministry, alleged in an August 6, 2020 complaint that a team of Saudi agents — identified as the “Tiger Squad” — tried to assassinate him in Toronto at the behest of the crown prince on October 15, 2018.

Two weeks earlier, the members of the hit squad named in al-Jabri’s filing had carried out the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey. US intelligence services have concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed likely ordered the killing.

The crown prince claims immunity

On Monday, Michael K. Kellogg, Crown Prince Mohammed’s lawyer, filed a motion to dismiss al-Jabri’s claim at a district court in Washington, DC, denying the former spy official’s allegation and arguing that Crown Prince Mohammed is immune from US prosecution as a head of state.

“The immunity of foreign officials from suit in the United States is governed by the doctrine of common-law foreign sovereign immunity,” Kellogg wrote in the 69-page filing.

Crown Prince Mohammed “has immunity based not only on his immediate familial relationship to the King, but also on his own ‘high-ranking office,'” Kellogg added.

Though al-Jabri lives in Canada and is a dual Saudi-Maltese citizen, he filed the claim in the US, citing his value to the US government from his time working on counterterrorism projects with President George W. Bush’s administration.

Pompeo MBS

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on September 18, 2019.

Bandar Algaloud/Reuters


Al-Jabri is “uniquely positioned to existentially threaten Defendant bin Salman’s standing with the US,” his lawyers wrote in the August complaint.

However, Kellogg said the claim was misplaced in a US court. “Even taking Aljabri’s allegations as true, he does not and cannot allege that the supposed attempt on his life in Canada was caused by any conduct in the United States,” he wrote.

In the complaint, Crown Prince Mohammed’s legal team also accused al-Jabri of mishandling or stealing $11 billion while working at Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry. That money was part of a $19 billion fund set up to combat terrorism in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, Kellogg wrote in the Monday filing.

Al-Jabri had denied claims of stealing from the Saudi government in his August filing, calling them “bogus.”

Kellogg also described al-Jabri’s complaint as “steeped in drama,” saying it compared Crown Prince Mohammed to “one of Shakespeare’s greatest villains,” Richard III.

Both Kellogg and lawyers for al-Jabri declined to comment for this article.

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman is seen during the Arab Summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 31, 2019. REUTERS/Hamad l Mohammed

Mohammad bin Salman is seen during the Arab Summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 31, 2019.

REUTERS/Hamad l Mohammed


‘Why Defendant bin Salman wants him dead’

Al-Jabri fled Saudi Arabia in 2017, fearing he would be detained as part of a crackdown on figures close to the ousted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the predecessor of Crown Prince Mohammed.

“Dr. Saad is uniquely positioned to existentially threaten Defendant bin Salman’s standing with the US government,” al-Jabri’s lawyers wrote in their 107-page complaint in August.

“That is why Defendant bin Salman wants him dead — and why Defendant bin Salman has worked to achieve that objective over the last three years.

In their complaint, Al-Jabri’s lawyers had also accused Crown Prince Mohammed of trying to lure him back to Saudi Arabia from Toronto.

This tactic culminated on March 16, 2020, when al-Jabri’s children, Omar and Sarah, were seized from their beds in Riyadh.

Since then they have not been heard from publicly and are being used as “a source of leverage” to force him to come home, al-Jabri has said.

Kellogg wrote: “Plaintiff can say whatever he wants to the newspapers. But this case does not belong in federal court. Aljabri cannot establish personal jurisdiction over the crown prince. He cannot establish subject-matter jurisdiction in this court. And he cannot state a single claim on the merits.”

Toronto

Toronto, Canada.

Istvan Kadar Photography/Getty Images


Sued via WhatsApp

Suing the leader of a foreign country comes with logistical difficulties.

Evidence submitted to the court by al-Jabri’s lawyers on October 29, 2020, showed that Crown Prince Mohammed was sent English and Arabic copies of the case via a WhatsApp message.

Read receipts, submitted to the court, show that he read the message on September 22, 2020.

However, the counsel for Crown Prince Mohammed argued on Monday that serving him the suit by WhatsApp “violate Saudi law” because “Saudi Arabia is also not a party to any international treaties that permit service of process by mail or by WhatsApp.”

Read Crown Prince Mohammed’s filing in full here:

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