Mohammed bin Nayef, right, had been first in line for the throne until 2017, when Mohammed bin Salman, left, was elevated over him (AFP)
By MEE staff
Published date: 6 March 2020
Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has detained three senior members of the kingdom’s royal family, clearing away once-formidable rivals to the throne, people familiar with the matter have said.
The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported that Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, King Salman’s younger brother, and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew, were arrested early on Friday.
The details of the charges couldn’t be learned, but the two Saudi royals were accused of treason, the reports said.
The two men, who had once been in line for the throne, are now under threat of lifetime imprisonment or execution, people familiar with the matter said.
Saudi authorities also detained Nayef’s younger brother, Prince Nawaf bin Nayef.
The move by MBS comes more than two years after hundreds of Saudi businessmen and at least 11 Saudi princes were arrested in an alleged anti-corruption drive.
Several senior figures were beaten and tortured and required hospital treatment at the time.
On Friday morning, guards from the Saudi royal court wearing masks and dressed in black arrived at the homes of the two men, took them into custody and searched their homes, the Journal reported.
Mohammed bin Nayef is the former interior minister, a powerful position with oversight of troops and Riyadh’s large intelligence service, and had already effectively been under house arrest since he was removed from that post by MBS in 2017.
Over the past few years, their standing in the royal family had diminished as King Salman consolidated power and installed his son, MBS, as crown prince and the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
In September 2018, a senior source told Middle East Eye that Prince Ahmed was considering placing himself in self-imposed exile in London.
Prince Ahmed previously made comments saying “the king and the crown prince, and others in the state” are to blame for the current situation in the country, marking the first time someone of the prince’s rank broke the family code of silence.
Since coming to power, MBS has led a brutal crackdown against dissenting voices, with activists, scholars, writers, economists and public figures arrested.