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Is arbitrary detention a norm in Saudi Arabia?

  • 14 April 2019
  • Author: QT01
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Is arbitrary detention a norm in Saudi Arabia?
The arrest of a wealthy Saudi prince highlights a pattern that's emerged in Saudi Arabia over the last two years: one of arbitrary detention where charges are rarely brought and where individuals are detained if they seek redress for a friend or family member who is under arrest, according to CNN.
Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman, who was educated abroad and speaks fluent Arabic, English and French, was summoned to the Qasr al Hukm palace in Riyadh on the night of January 4, 2018. When he arrived at the palace, an argument quickly became a fracas.
Friends of Prince Salman say Saud al Qahtani, who was then a close adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was present.
Al Qahtani was relieved of his position later in 2018 amid allegations that he was involved with the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. In November, prosecutors said he was under investigation and was barred from leaving the kingdom.
Friends of Prince Salman say he was detained and taken to the maximum security Ha'ir prison outside Riyadh.
The only official comment at the time came from prosecutors who said 11 princes had been detained after they had gathered at a royal palace in Riyadh in a protest against the government suspending payment of their utility bills.
"Despite being informed that their demands were not lawful, the 11 princes refused to leave the area, disrupting public peace and order. Members of a security services stepped in to restore order and the princes were arrested," the prosecutors statement said.
Whatever caused the dispute, human rights groups say Prince Salman's imprisonment illustrates a pattern that's emerged in Saudi Arabia over the last two years: one of arbitrary detention where charges are rarely brought and where individuals are detained if they seek redress for a friend or family member who is under arrest.
Two days after Prince Salman was detained, his father, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Mohammad Al Saud, was also arrested -- after involving international lawyers in his son's case. Neither has been charged, according to associates.
Prince Salman is not a senior royal, but he is married to a daughter of the late King Abdullah.
For the first four months of his detention, Prince Salman was allowed no communication with friends or family. Friends say he was then allowed two telephone calls a week. After more than a year in detention, he and his father were moved to a different, guarded compound where conditions were less sparse. They were recently permitted visits from family members.
The reasons for Prince Salman's arrest 15 months ago are still unclear. Those close to him say he had lobbied for the release of a cousin who had been detained as part of what Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman described as an anti-corruption purge that began in November 2017.
The cousin was Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Saud al Kabeer. Prince Turki was an adviser to the King who had worked at the Foreign Ministry for more than 30 years. Sources say Prince Turki had been privately critical of the Crown Prince. He was eventually released three months after being detained.
Some friends of Prince Salman believe he may also have angered the Royal Court by meeting a prominent US Democratic congressman, Adam Schiff, along with a major donor to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Andy Khawaja, weeks before the 2016 US election. The meeting was in Beverly Hills on October 16, 2016.
They say the meeting had no political agenda but may have been perceived in Riyadh as counter to Saudi Arabia's unspoken preference for Donald Trump over Clinton.
Schiff's office said that the congressman doesn't recall any specifics from the discussion but assumes they would have talked about Middle East policy and Saudi Arabia generally.

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