A US Department of State spokesperson on Friday cited the example of Prime Minister Narendra Modi while defending the Joe Biden administration’s decision to to grant immunity from a lawsuit to Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

At a press briefing, Vedant Patel, the principal deputy spokesperson of the State Department, said that the US has granted similar immunity to heads of states in the past too.

“...It has been applied to a number of heads of state previously,” he said. “President [Jean-Bertrand] Aristide in Haiti in 1993, President [Robert] Mugabe in Zimbabwe in 2001, Prime Minister Modi in India in 2014...”

New Delhi has not commented on the remark yet.

The US had imposed a visa ban on Modi in 2005 over allegations that as chief minister of Gujarat he had failed to stop riots in the state in 2002. After he became India’s prime minister in 2014, Modi secured an immunity from the ban.

Modi has also been cleared of the allegations by Indian courts.

Immunity to Mohammed bin Salman

On Thursday, the United States granted immunity to Mohammed bin Salman from lawsuits in the Khasoggi murder case.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who had been critical of Saudi Arabia, was murdered allegedly at the behest of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Khashoggi’s body was said to have been dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and disposed of elsewhere. His remains were never found.

In February 2021, a US intelligence report had also concluded that Salman had approved Khashoggi’s killing.

After Salman was granted immunity on Thursday, a White House spokesperson said, according to Reuters: “This is a legal determination made by the State Department under longstanding and well-established principles of customary international law. It has nothing to do with the merits of the case.”