Riyadh - Saudi Arabian authorities have been holding a son of the late Saudi King Abdullah since March and have refused to disclose his whereabouts, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Saturday.
Prince Faisal bin Abdullah is apparently being held incommunicado and may have been forcibly disappeared, the New York-based rights group said, citing a source with close ties to the royal family.
“Despite waves of criticism, the lawless behaviour of Saudi authorities during the de facto rule of Mohammed bin Salman continues unabated,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, referring to the Saudi crown prince.
“Now we have to add Prince Faisal to the hundreds detained in Saudi Arabia without a clear legal basis.”
Security forces arrived on 27 March at Prince Faisal’s compound northeast of Riyadh, where he had been self-isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic, and detained him without charge, HRW said.
Family members have been left in the dark as to his whereabouts and are particularly concerned about his health as he has a heart condition.
Educated in London and with close ties to the Saudi intelligence community, Prince Faisal once served as head of the Red Crescent society with the rank of minister in the kingdom.
Prince Faisal was among hundreds of elite royals, businessmen and ministers held at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in November 2017 in an “anti-corruption” campaign, who were then reportedly pressured into handing over their vast assets.
The kingdom claimed to have raised more than $100bn in the purge, with some beaten into submission.
Among those detained were a number of Prince Faisal’s other sons, including Prince Mishal bin Abdullah, a former governor of Mecca; Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, former National Guard minister; and Prince Turki bin Abdullah, a former governor of Riyadh. Prince Turki remains in detention without charge.
Billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, dubbed the “Arabian Warren Buffet” and one of the richest men in the world, was held for three months before reaching an agreement with authorities.
In March of this year, another twenty senior royals were detained in a purge, including Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, King Salman’s full brother and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a former crown prince and interior minister who was removed to make way for Mohammed bin Salman in June 2017.
Middle East Eye reported that the move was a preemptive effort to ensure compliance within the ruling al-Saud family ahead of the crown prince's intention to become king before the G20 summit in Riyadh in November.
'Blatant disrespect for the rule of law'
Last month, Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, 56, who had been missing for a year after she was abducted along with her daughter, reemerged over Twitter, pleading with her uncle King Salman and her cousin, the crown prince, to release her from prison.
'The arrest and possible disappearance of Prince Faisal demonstrates again Saudi authorities’ blatant disrespect for the rule of law and the need for a full overhaul of the justice system' - Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch
“I am currently being arbitrarily held at al-Ha'ir prison without criminal, or otherwise any charges against my person. My health is deteriorating to an extent that is serve [sic], and that could lead to my death," she wrote in a statement on Twitter, adding that she had been abducted “without explanation”.
Page said that Saudi authorities were displaying a “blatant disrespect” for international law with such arrests.
“Saudi Arabia’s recent justice reforms have evidently not curbed rampant arbitrary detentions, including of prominent royal family members,” Page said.
“The arrest and possible disappearance of Prince Faisal demonstrates again Saudi authorities’ blatant disrespect for the rule of law and the need for a full overhaul of the justice system.”
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