Saudi authorities detain children of exiled top-ranked officer

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A former senior Saudi security official and his family members are being persecuted by authorities. Two of his children are currently held in detention in an effort to force him to return to Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Saad al-Jabri fled into exile to Canada three years ago, ahead of a purge by the all-powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

His children who are still living in Saudi Arabia have been seized as “hostages”, according to his eldest son, Khalid al-Jabri.

“Omar and Sarah were kidnapped at dawn on March 16 and taken out of their beds by about 50 state security officers who arrived in 20 cars,” says Khalid.

The family house in Riyadh was then searched, the CCTV memory cards removed and the pair, aged 21 and 20 respectively, held incommunicado at a detention centre.

There have been no charges given and no reason offered to the family for their arrest, Khalid said from Canada where he and his father live in self-imposed exile. “We don’t even know if they are alive or dead.”

He believes they are being held as bargaining chips in an attempt to force his father to return to Saudi Arabia where he fears he will face immediate arrest and imprisonment.

The Saudi authorities have not responded to the BBC’s requests for comment on the allegations made by the family of Dr. al-Jabri and those who worked with him.

Dr. al-Jabri was the right-hand man to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was widely credited with defeating the al-Qaeda insurgency in the 2000s. He was also the linchpin in all Saudi Arabia’s relations with western intelligence agencies.

A quiet-spoken man with a doctorate in artificial intelligence from Edinburgh University, Dr. al-Jabri rose to the rank of cabinet minister and held a major-general’s rank in the interior ministry.

But in 2015 everything changed. King Abdullah died and his half-brother Salman ascended to the throne, appointing his young and untested son Mohammed Bin Salman (known as MBS) as defence minister.

MBS then ordered his country’s forces to intervene in Yemen’s civil war, a move opposed by Dr. al-Jabri who pointed out that there was no exit strategy. More than five years later Saudi Arabia is still looking for a way out of the costly stalemate in Yemen.

In 2017 MBS carried out a bloodless palace coup with his father’s blessing. He effectively usurped the next in line to the throne, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, becoming crown prince himself.

Today that deposed prince is under arrest, his assets seized and those who worked for him have been removed from their posts. Dr. al-Jabri fled into exile in Canada. But former Western intelligence officials believe MBS still sees him as a threat to his legitimacy.

“He can’t afford to have that guy as a free radical and a galvanising force against him,” says one of them.

His family says they have tried in vain to meet the Saudi authorities “on neutral ground” and have now decided to go public.

“There are signs that Dr. Saad is being targeted with a wide range of threats and the (Canadian) authorities are taking it seriously,” says his son Khalid.

“We were pushed into this,” he adds. “We are patriots, we love our country, we don’t want to embarrass Saudi Arabia but kidnapping Omar and Sarah like this, it is daylight thuggery by a state.” (Source: BBC)

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