Donald Trump‘s administration is considering granting Saudi Arabia‘s Mohammed bin Salman immunity in a lawsuit accusing him of trying to assassinate a former intelligence chief in Canada, legal documents show.
Saad Aljabri, a former counter-terror officer and US ally in Riyadh, claims that 50 ‘Tiger Squad’ hitmen were dispatched by the Saudi monarch to kidnap his family and kill him in Toronto in 2018.
A lawyer for MbS told a federal court in Washington earlier this month that not only was the complaint based on ‘scant allegations’ but that the Crown Prince was protected by his sovereign status.
If the State Department were to bow to the Saudi demands it could lead to the dismissal of further lawsuits filed against MbS, including ones accusing him of ordering the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Donald Trump (right) has been a supporter of MbS (left), choosing Saudi Arabia for his first ever overseas visit as president and blocking congressional attempts to sanction the kingdom for alleged human rights abuses.
Saad Aljabri, far left, at a family wedding in Riyadh in 2016. On the right are Timothy A. Lenderking, now deputy assistant secretary of state for Arabian Gulf affairs, and Joseph W. Westphal, then US ambassador to Saudi
Aljabri’s complaint says it is precisely because of the ‘sensitive, humiliating, and damning information’ which he knows about ‘the extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi, among others,’ that MbS wants him dead.
The State Department last month sent a questionnaire to Aljabri’s lawyers asking for their legal opinion on the Saudi request for immunity, a source close to the family told The Washington Post.
Attorneys for Aljabri and bin Salman declined to comment.
Lawmakers and the State Department have condemned Riyadh for detaining Aljabri’s brother and two of his adult children in March in a bid to silence him.
When the complaint was filed in August, the department called Aljabri ‘a valued partner’ and said it would work to resolve the situation ‘in a manner that honors Dr. Aljabri’s service to our country.’
‘Any persecution of Dr. Aljabri’s family members is unacceptable,’ assistant secretary Ryan Kaldahl wrote.
But Trump has been a supporter of MbS, choosing Saudi Arabia for his first ever overseas visit as president and blocking congressional attempts to sanction the kingdom for alleged human rights abuses.
Trump also refused to point the finger at MbS over the killing of Khashoggi, despite evidence contrary statements from US intelligence.
President-elect Joe Biden said in October on the anniversary of the journalist’s death that his family ‘deserve accountability’ and vowed to uphold American values in his dealings with the kingdom.
Biden said he wouldn’t support Saudi’s actions in Yemen and ‘make sure America does not check its values at the door to sell arms or buy oil.’
In a statement to the Post, Aljabri’s eldest son Khalid, a doctor in Toronto, said that if MbS was granted immunity it would only give rise to further assassinations.
‘If granted, the U.S. would essentially be granting MbS immunity for conduct that succeeded in killing Jamal Khashoggi and failed to kill my dad,’ the cardiologist said.
‘Lack of accountability is one thing, but allowing impunity through immunity is like issuing a license to kill.’
Lawmakers have demanded that Trump make efforts to secure the release of Aljabri’s two children. Sarah Aljabri is seen in the above file photo
Aljabri is seen right in this undated file photo with his son, Omar, who along with his sister has not been heard from since March
Aljabri alleges that the Saudi government has kidnapped his two adult children (pictured with daughter Sarah)
Aljabri is a former top aide to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was edged out as heir to the throne in 2017 by MbS, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
Trump ratchets up pressure on Assad with fresh Syria sanctions
The Trump administration on Tuesday announced more sanctions on Syria, intensifying pressure on President Bashar Assad to end the country’s vicious, nearly decade-long conflict.
The new sanctions target Syria’s central bank, Assad’s in-laws, and others.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the United States was intent on ‘holding accountable the Assad regime for the atrocities it has committed against its own people.’
‘The Treasury Department will continue to use all of its tools to expose those who stand with the Assad regime and enable these crimes to continue,’ Mnuchin said in a statement.
The State Department and other international governments and independent rights groups say Assad and his regime are responsible in the killings of hundreds of thousands of civilians through aerial bombing, torture, armed attacks, hunger and other targeted campaigns. The violence began when Assad’s fighters brutally quashed civilian protests at the time of the 2011 Arab Spring popular uprisings.
Tuesday’s announcement deepens sanctions on the central bank. Syria’s economy already has seen prices soar and the value of the Syrian currency plunge, hurt by earlier U.S. financial sanctions and the fear of more.
The Treasury Department said the aim ‘was to discourage future investment in government-controlled areas of Syria’ as part of the broader effort to compel Assad’s government to end human rights violations.
The new measures also increase pressure on Syria’s first lady, Asma Assad, sanctioning her mother, father and siblings, who are dual British-Syrian nationals with London addresses.
Reporting by the Associated Press.
Prince Nayef and Prince Ahmed – King Salman’s brother – were also detained by authorities in March. They have been charged with treason.
They are among a wave of royals detained in recent months as MbS eliminates potential rivals to amass power unseen by previous rulers.
Aljabri, who relocated to Canada with six of his children, is known to have connections to senior American government officials and is viewed as ‘a longtime trusted partner of senior US intelligence officials.’
According to the 100-page court filing, Aljabri is a marked man in Riyadh because he is ‘uniquely positioned to existentially threaten defendant bin Salman’s standing with the US Government.’
It says MbS dispatched a team of agents to the US to locate Aljabri.
The agents managed to pinpoint Aljabri’s location by implanting malware on his cell phone, the lawsuit alleges.
Less than two weeks after the Khashoggi killing, a ‘personal mercenary group’ known as ‘Tiger Squad’ traveled to Canada to kill Aljabri, the complaint alleges.
The members of the ‘Tiger Squad’ were carrying ‘two bags of forensic tools.’
They also had ‘forensic personnel experienced with the clean-up of crime scenes – including an instruction in the exact same criminal evidence department as the forensic specialist who dismembered Khashoggi with a bone saw.’
The lawsuit alleges that the team tried to enter Canada covertly while traveling on tourist visas.
‘Upon approaching the kiosks, the Tiger Squad Defendants aroused the suspicion of Canadian border security officials, who asked them whether they knew each other,’ the lawsuit says.
‘They lied and said they did not. On information and belief, shortly thereafter, during secondary screening, Canadian officials found a photo of some of the Tiger Squad Defendants together, revealing their lie and thwarting their mission.’
According to the lawsuit, MbS remains determined to ‘once and for all…eliminate’ Aljabri.
But a lawyer for the Crown Prince told the Washington court on December 7: ‘This court lacks personal jurisdiction over the Crown Prince.
‘The complaint alleges an attempt to kill Aljabri in Canada, directed from Saudi Arabia. None of the scant allegations pertaining to the United States establishes the contacts between the Crown Prince, the United States, and Aljabri’s legal claims.’
The alleged plot to have Aljabri assassinated was thwarted less than two weeks after a Saudi columnist for The Washington Post, Jamal Khashoggi (seen above in February 2015), was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The CIA believes MBS ordered the assassination of Khashoggi
Saad Aljabri (left), who once held a cabinet-level intelligence post under deposed crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef, has been living in exile in Toronto since Mohammed bin Salman (right), also known as MBS, ruthlessly took power in 2017
In four parallel filings earlier this month, the Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Abdulaziz Foundation and 11 Saudis named in the lawsuit likewise sought dismissal, citing the lack of evidence and jurisdiction.
Aljabri filed the case as a claim of attempted extrajudicial killing under the Torture Victim Protection Act, and asked for unspecified personal damages for ‘severe emotional distress,’ anxiety and hypertension, and other ailments, and punitive damages as well.
But the motions for dismissal rejected that.
‘Aljabri is alive and, according to the complaint itself, has never been so much as touched. By its plain terms, the TVPA does not reach an attempt at an extrajudicial killing,’ it said.
It also faulted Aljabri for not pursuing the case in Canada or Saudi Arabia.
The prince’s filing meanwhile accused Aljabri and his family of taking part in the misappropriation and theft of $11 billion meant for counterterrorism operations when Aljabri was a senior official at the Saudi Interior Ministry in 2001-2015.
‘The flaws in this complaint are so apparent and run so deep that it can only be regarded as an attempt to divert attention from plaintiff’s massive theft,’ it said.
‘Plaintiff can say whatever he wants to the newspapers. But this case does not belong in federal court.’