- The Saudi Crown Prince, internationally noted for the dismemberment of a journalist has kept his cousin in custody since January 2018 without charge.
- The European Parliament has requested explanations from Saudi Arabia and is about to raise the case to international justice.
- A meeting with Democratic congressmen in Los Angeles during the election campaign in the US may be at the origin of the arrest, according to sources in their environment.
On January 4, 2018, the Office of the Prosecutor of Saudi Arabia announced the arrest of 11 princes who allegedly went to the royal palace to protest a new reform promoted by the crown prince, Mohamed bin Salman (MBS), which forced them to pay the invoices of light and water of its palaces. They also demanded compensation for the death sentence of one of their cousins, Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, the first member of the royal family sentenced to death in more than 40 years.
“Despite informing them that their demands were not legal, the 11 princes refused to leave the place, disturbing the peace and public order. The members of the security services intervened to restore order and the princes were arrested,” he said. the prosecutor.
In May all were released, except one.
Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman al Saud, cousin of MBS and married to a daughter of the former King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who died in 2015, has been detained for more than a year without known charges.
“It was a trap to stop him,” he tells eldiario.es Mohammad, a friend of Prince Salmán for 15 years (fictitious name for security reasons). This person denies the official version: “Someone from the Royal House called at three in the morning, a group of 14 or 15 people went to the royal palace, they were mistreated and they arrested 11”.
The father of the detained prince was also arrested two days later, after having made a series of calls to his friends and acquaintances in Europe in search of help to free his son. Nor has he been released since then. The father, Abdulaziz bin Salmán, was an adviser to King Fahd (who died in 2005) for a decade and worked for 12 years in the country’s intelligence services.
The socialist MEP Antonio Panzeri, president of the Human Rights Subcommittee of the European Parliament, is closely following the case. “Most of the [princes] imprisoned [by MBS] have accusations of corruption, but this case is different.” The prince was called into the palace in the middle of the night and from there he was transferred to jail without any accusation. all human rights “, tells eldiario.es.
Panzeri and his team have taken the prince’s case to several meetings and have requested explanations from the Saudi ambassador in Brussels, but have not yet received a response. However, Panzer promises to keep pushing. “We want to talk about this with the international tribunals that deal with this and we want to talk to the UN working group about arbitrary arrests.” We also want to visit Saudi Arabia in April to visit women human rights activists and we would like to see some of the people who are detained, “he says.
Prince Salman, a doctor in Right by the Sorbonne, lived in Paris and does not have political ambitions, count several near sources. He is a rich businessman with a private aviation company, hotels and multiple properties and investments in Europe and, especially, in Saudi Arabia. It has a collection of luxury cars, several palaces and a large collection of art. “The invoices of the palaces are not more than 2,000 dollars a month.” The excuse of the arrest for refusing to pay the bills is ridiculous, “says Mohammad.
Mohammad notes that the first 13 months, father and son were in the Al Hair prison in Riyadh, but later moved to another place. “He’s in a private jail with policemen,” says Mohammad.
Visit the USA and meeting with Democratic congressmen
The prince’s environment believes that the arrest responds in part to a visit to the United States in October 2016, in full election campaign, in which he met with Democratic congressmen Adam Schiff, then leader of the minority in the Intelligence Committee of the Congress and current president of the same committee, and Brad Sherman. The meeting was held on October 17 at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, where more people participated, including businessman and philanthropist Andy Khawaja.
Khawaja donated four million dollars to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and one million to the inaugural committee of Donald Trump (once won the election). The imprisoned prince also met with the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti.
“Prince Salman was invited to this meeting of friendly nature by Andy Khawaja, everything was organized by him, including the reception of the prince at the airport,” says a source who was present at the meeting and who knows the prince who has been imprisoned for seven years. years. “Khawaja organized a meal to which he invited Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman, among many others, Prince Salman has never been interested in politics, he’s a philanthropist by nature.”
Mohammad says Prince Salman did not know the congressmen before: “When he went to Los Angeles, he did not know he was going to meet them, and a friend from Los Angeles introduced him to them.” Salman was trying to create a group of rich and powerful people to develop humanitarian projects, says Mohammad. “The prince has been offered political office several times and has rejected it, he is not interested in politics,” his friend says.
MEP Panzeri says: “During a visit to the US he met with people from the Democratic Party, but if that is the reason, it is something intolerable that we can not accept, he has never had political ambitions in his country. Witch hunt”. “It is not possible that in a country people like the prince are in jail for more than a year without a formal accusation,” he adds.
After the visit to Los Angeles, the prince returned to Paris, where he lives with his family most of the time, and finally traveled to Saudi Arabia in June 2017. There he met with Mohamed Bin Salmán, who was then Minister of Defense and a week later he would become Crown Prince. “The relationship between the two was good, and when he became Crown Prince, the problems began,” says Mohammad. Months later, in November, MBS launched its massive anti-corruption campaign and began mass arrests.
Anti-corruption purge and MBS coup blow
Mohamed Bin Salman launched a major campaign allegedly anti-corruption in November 2017 that affected 381 high-level people, including ministers, big businessmen and several members of the royal family. Approximately 160 of them were locked up for two months at the Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel in Riyadh, converted into a prison, and were released in January after reaching an agreement that included the payment of heavy compensation to the State. Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General, Sheikh Saud al Mojeb, announced that the Government had recovered more than $ 100 billion through these “agreements.” In other interviews, government sources gave much lower figures.
Among those affected by the campaign launched in November was the former Crown Prince, Mohamed Bin Nayef, whose accounts and those around him were frozen. Many analysts have interpreted the operation as an MBS maneuver to consolidate their position in power.
MBS has altered Saudi politics since it was appointed by decree of his father, King Salman, crown prince in June 2017. This decree dethroned his elder cousin, Mohamed Bin Nayef, grandson of Abdulaziz bin Saud, first king of the country and father of all the kings Saudi Arabia has had.
The other six monarchs so far, including the current king, Salman, are brothers. MBS will be the first to break that line of succession. Instead of passing from brother to brother, the throne will pass for the first time from father to son, becoming the youngest king of the country. Mohamed Bin Salman is currently 33 years old and is of the same generation as Prince Salmán, his cousin whom he has imprisoned (37 years old).
Mohamed Bin Salman has been sold abroad as a reformer of the country to which he is bringing openness and modernism while consolidating his position of power by repressing opponents and possible political rivals.
Although Saudi Arabia did not give the names of those affected by the anti-corruption campaign of MBS, Mohammad says one of those held at the Ritz-Carlton was Prince Turki bin Mohamed bin Saud al-Kabir. This prince has spent decades in various high-ranking positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which he entered in the early ’80s. Prince Salman tried to intercede on his behalf and Mohammad believes that this is another of the main reasons for his subsequent arrest. Three months later, Turki, cousin of the imprisoned prince, was released.
Controversial friendships in France
Mohammad is sure that the arrest of Prince Salman’s father, only two days after his son’s death, is due to the calls he made to try to free Salmán. One of those calls was to Elie Hatem, a controversial law professor, a lawyer based in France and advisor to Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Hatem has already represented other members of the royal family in the past, including Princess Hassa bint Salmán, stepsister of MBS and daughter of the current King Salmán. In December 2018, a French judge issued an arrest warrant for the princess, accused of ordering her bodyguard to beat a plumber who was working in his Paris apartment.
According to the statement of the plumber to the police, published by Le Point, the worker was beaten, tied to a chair and forced to kneel and kiss the princess’ feet. The incident began when he saw the plumber taking photos of the house and suspected that he wanted to sell them to the media (the worker alleged that it was to return the furniture as they were before the reform).
Elie Hatem, the former advisor to former UN Secretary-General Boutros Ghali, confirms to eldiario.es that he received the call from the father of the imprisoned prince. Hatem is a member of Action Française, an ultra-conservative movement that advocates the restoration of the monarchy in France and has often been accused of being ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic, “especially by extremist Jews,” he says. “I’m harming the system in France and I’m saying things that others are afraid to say, that’s why they attack me,” he adds.
The disappearance of Prince Salman and his father is not a unique case in Saudi Arabia. After coming to power, MBS “authorized” a secret campaign to silence uncomfortable people with follow-ups, kidnappings, arrests, and torture of Saudi citizens, according to The New York Times. US officials have even put a name to this team: the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group. The “premeditated” murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was part of that campaign.