Father and Son Royal Princes Disappeared by MBS Since November 2020
(Washington D.C., June 25, 2021) – Saudi authorities should disclose the whereabouts of, and either charge or release, Prince Salman Al Saud, 38, known as Ghazalan, and his father, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Muhammed, who have been imprisoned without charge since January 2018, and subsequently disappeared since November 2020, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) said today.
In a new report published today, DAWN reveals new information about the arrests of the two men and the direct involvement of Saud al-Qahtani, former close advisor to Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman (MBS) in their detention.
"Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman has abandoned none of his brutal tactics, including brazenly disappearing royal opponents like Princes Salman and Abdulaziz, since President Biden's election," said Abdullah Alaoudh, Director of Research for the Gulf at DAWN. "The lawless abduction and mistreatment of these men show that the Crown Prince believes himself to be absolutely immune from any demands for accountability from the Biden administration, given its repeated reassurances of support for him."
A special Saudi security force called "al-Saif al-Ajrab Brigade," or the Naked Sword Brigade, created by Crown Prince MBS and led by al-Qahtani, arrested Prince Salman on January 4, 2018 and Prince Abdulaziz on January 5, 2018, as part of a broad purge of prominent royal family members, government ministers and business people by MBS.
According to a source close to the family, brigade members led by al-Qahtani beat Prince Salman unconscious during his arrest and then transferred him to the infamous Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which was serving at the time as an informal prison run by MBS and his security forces. Prince Salman remained at the Ritz-Carlton for almost two weeks until State Security officers transferred him to al-Haer Prison in mid-January 2018. Prison authorities held the men incommunicado, without access to family or phone calls, for the first eight months of their detention in al-Haer Prison.
In approximately March 2019, Saudi authorities transferred the men to al-Dhiyafah Palace, a private villa in Riyadh, until they disappeared them in November 2021. Their current whereabouts are unknown.
On March 30, 2021, the U.S. State Department Annual Human Rights Report referenced Prince Salman's and Prince Abdulaziz's cases, indicating that "the prince and his father have never been interrogated or charged since their detention began more than two and a half years ago."
DAWN has documented the abuses against the two men, gleaning new information about their arrest, the conditions of their detention, and the identities and roles of individual Saudis who participated in the abuses perpetrated against them. These individuals, the critical cogs in the wheel of Saudi oppression, include prominent Saudi officials featured in DAWN's Culprit Gallery, including: Saud al-Qahtani and Attorney General Saud al-Mojeb.
Attorney General Mojeb sought to justify the arrests of the princes by claiming on January 6, 2018 that security forces arrested Prince Salman at a palace in Riyadh during a "sit-in" with other royals demanding that the state pay their electricity and water bills. Sources close to Prince Salman's family told DAWN that the Attorney General's claim was false, charging that the Attorney General made the story up for local consumption, in an attempt to smear him.
The Attorney General has failed to bring any charges against Prince Salman based on the sit-in or for any other reason; failed to investigate the violent beating of Prince Salman by the security forces led by al-Qahtani; failed to provide Prince Salman or Prince Abdulaziz with due process or access to a lawyer; and failed to inform the family of the whereabouts of the two men since November 2020, in violation of Saudi domestic and international human rights law, including Saudi's own Law of Criminal Procedures, the Arab Charter on Human Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On October 16, 2016, Prince Salman met with U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff, along with Democratic party donor Andy Khawaja, in Beverly Hills, California. The same day, sources close to his family told DAWN that Prince Salman's family received a call from Khalid bin Abdulrahman al-Issa, then-Chief of the Saudi Royal Court, ordering him to return to the Kingdom. The Schiff meeting and other meetings Prince Salman held with foreign officials drew the scrutiny of the Crown Prince and his inner circle. According to a source cited in the Washington Post, the arrest and detention of Prince Salman actually stemmed more from the Crown Prince's personal jealousy of Prince Salman, "a more cosmopolitan version of the Saudi-educated crown prince — tall and worldly, fluent in three languages with a doctorate in law from the Sorbonne."
"The arrest and detention of Prince Salman and Prince Abdulaziz most likely resulted from Crown Prince MBS' annoyance at Prince Salman's contacts with American government officials and perceived rivalry with Prince Salman, given Salman's achievements and stature," said Alaoudh. "This is the new Saudi Arabia under MBS: whomever he doesn't like, he beats up and disappears."
Several foreign officials have attempted to intervene on Prince Salman's behalf. On February 4, 2021, European Parliamentarian Marc Tarabella sent a letter, a copy of which DAWN obtained, to Congressman Schiff urging him to pressure the Saudi government to release the princes. "This is the time to join our forces and offer political and diplomatic solutions in order to bring justice by putting an end to the arbitrary detention of Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud and his father," Tarabella said in the letter.
"The Biden team promised during the Presidential campaign to hold the Saudi government accountable for its human rights abuses," said Raed Jarrar, DAWN's Advocacy Director. "To prove those promises weren't just empty rhetoric, the Biden Administration should demand that the Saudi government disclose the whereabouts of Prince Salman and Prince Abdulaziz and charge or release them."
Read more about Prince Salman Ghazalan's arrest and detention here.
Photo Credits: PARIS, FRANCE – FEBRUARY 05: Saudi Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Bin Salman Al-Saud attends the 8th Annual Dinner of the 'Societe Des Amis Du Musee D'Art Moderne' at Centre Pompidou on February 5, 2013 in Paris, France. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)