The lawsuit, filed in a Washington, DC, District Court on Tuesday, seeks payments for damages caused by Khashoggi’s death, including “severe mental pain and suffering” by his widow and interference in the operation of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a reform group Khashoggi helped establish before he died.
The suit was brought by DAWN and Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish citizen and the late Khashoggi’s fiancee.
Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist of Turkish descent, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, by agents purported to be operating at the behest of the Saudi crown prince. A critic of the Saudi government who was close to the Muslim Brotherhood, Khashoggi had been forced to flee the kingdom for the United States in 2017. However, he was forced to journey to Istanbul to obtain documents related to his forthcoming marriage, a visit from which he never returned.
However, Cengiz argues in the suit that the two were, in fact, already married two weeks earlier “according to the traditions of Islam” and that Cengiz was financially dependent Khashoggi under Turkish law, thus entitling her to compensation for his death.
The brutal murder sparked a slew of investigations in Turkey, the US and Saudi Arabia. While the CIA found bin Salman had masterminded the assassination, US President Donald Trump has refused to assign blame. However, last month Trump was revealed to have boasted to Bob Woodward, a Washington Post journalist and former colleague of Khashoggi’s, that he “was able to get Congress to leave him [bin Salman] alone. I was able to get them to stop."
“I saved his a**,” Trump said, Woodward recounted in his book “Rage.”
Riyadh’s separate investigation found 13 Saudi officials responsible for the conspiracy, but declined to fault bin Salman or several close advisers as having masterminded the killing. Some of those, such as Saud al-Qahtani, who was fired from his posting as the royal court’s media chief in late 2018, and Ahmed al-Assiri, Riyadh’s former deputy intelligence chief who met the same fate, were both exonerated in their murder trials but are now named in this new suit.
The other half of the suit is based on the argument that bin Salman purposefully interfered with DAWN’s plans by killing Khashoggi, whose death deprived the group of resources it would have otherwise had if he had remained alive.
“The objective of the murder was clear – to halt Mr. Khashoggi’s advocacy in the United States, principally as the executive director of plaintiff DAWN, for democratic reform in the Arab world,” the suit argues. DAWN makes an open-ended request for financial compensation in the suit.
With DAWN, Khashoggi hoped to unite dissident groups including intellectuals, reformists and Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood to set up a media watch organization in the Arab World, especially targeting repressive states like Saudi Arabia.
King Salman, Mohammed bin Salman’s father and the titular ruler of Saudi Arabia, decreed in 2014 that the Muslim Brotherhood was a terrorist organization seeking the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy, after that group came to power in Egypt following the overthrow of longtime Saudi ally Hosni Mubarak in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. The new laws criminalizing support for the Brotherhood were also used to crack down on a growing Shiite protest movement in Eastern Province that was given new life by the Arab Spring.