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Saudi Arabia detains king’s brother, nephew in crackdown: Reports

Saudi Arabia has detained two senior members of the royal family – Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, and Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew – according to reports citing sources with knowledge of the matter. The Wall Street Journal reported the detentions of the two royals on Friday and said they…

Saudi Arabia detains king’s brother, nephew in crackdown: Reports

Saudi Arabia has detained two senior members of the royal family – Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, and Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew – according to reports citing sources with knowledge of the matter.
The Wall Street Journal reported the detentions of the two royals on Friday and said they related to an alleged coup attempt. Bloomberg also reported the detentions, quoting a source as saying that the pair were accused of “treason”.
Mohammed bin Nayef’s younger brother, Prince Nawaf bin Nayef, had also been detained, according to the New York Times.
There was no immediate comment by Saudi authorities.
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The detentions mark the latest crackdown by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, King Salman’s son and the de facto ruler of the kingdom.
Prince Mohammed, also known as MBS, has moved to consolidate power since replacing his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as heir to the throne in 2017. Later that year, he arrested dozens of royals and business people, in what was billed as a move against corruption that was draining state coffers.
But the crown prince has fuelled resentment among some prominent branches of the ruling family by tightening his grip on power and some question his ability to lead following the 2018 murder of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents and a major attack on Saudi oil infrastructure last year, sources have told Reuters news agency.
The sources said royals seeking to change the line of succession view Prince Ahmed, King Salman’s only surviving full brother, as a possible choice who would have the support of family members, the security apparatus and some Western powers.
In late 2018, a video emerged of Prince Ahmed facing protesters outside his London residence and in which he seemed to criticise King Salman and his crown prince for the war in Yemen. 
“Don’t blame the entire family … Those responsible are the king and his crown prince” he said. “In Yemen and elsewhere, our hope is that the war ends today before tomorrow.”
Though Prince Ahmed quickly retracted his comments, insisting that his words were taken out of context, messages of support and pledges of allegiance began pouring in. 
The 78-year-old also issued a statement to deny speculation that he was interested in the role of monarch. 

UPFRONT: Khashoggi murder – Western powers are ‘sending the wrong message’ (9:43)

Prince Ahmed has largely kept a low profile since returning to Riyadh in October 2018 after two and a half months abroad. 
He was one of only three people on the Allegiance Council, made up of the ruling Al Saud family’s senior members, who opposed Mohammed bin Salman becoming crown prince in June 2017, sources earlier said.
Mohammed bin Nayef’s movements have reportedly been restricted and monitored since then.
Saudi insiders and Western diplomats say the family is unlikely to oppose MBS while the 84-year-old king remains alive, recognising that he is unlikely to turn against his favourite son. The monarch has delegated most responsibilities of rule to his son but still presides over weekly cabinet meetings and receives foreign dignitaries.
Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, commenting from Doha, said the detentions were of “huge” significance.
“We are talking about two of the most senior members of the Saudi royal family,” he said.
“What’s prompted it is very difficult to ascertain, needless to say, because Saudis have a closed culture in terms of transparency and no media freedom.
“But these are two figures who have been under house arrest. They haven’t been able to move freely for a very long time. The idea that they were trying to hatch some sort of coup is very far-fetched and difficult to see when considering the restraints they were under.”
‘Sign of nervousness’
The latest detentions come at a time of heightened tension with regional rival Iran and as Prince Mohammed implements ambitious social and economic reforms, including an initial public offering by oil giant Saudi Aramco on the domestic bourse last December.
Saudi Arabia is also the current chair for the Group of 20 (G20) major economies.
MBS has been lauded at home for easing social restrictions in the kingdom and opening up the economy.
But he has come under international criticism over a devastating war in Yemen, the murder of Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate and the detention of women’s rights activists seen as part of a crackdown on dissent.
“Prince Mohammed is emboldened – he has already ousted any threats to his rise, and jailed or murdered critics of his regime without any repercussion,” Becca Wasser, a policy analyst at the US-based RAND Corporation, said of the latest crackdown.
“This is a further step to shore up his power and a message to anyone – including royals – not to cross him.”
Rami Khouri, a journalism professor at the American University of Beirut, echoed Wasser’s sentiment, saying the idea of a coup being fomented was unlikely in light of the “immense, direct and brutal control” that the crown prince has over all of the kingdom’s security agencies. 
“It is a sign of the nervousness of the crown prince and the people around him who rule Saudi Arabia because they probably expect that the king will either abdicate or pass away soon. They expect there might be some kind of challenge to the succession,” Khouri said. 
“The critical thing about this, I think, is that it is the final affirmative confirmation, the seal on Mohammed bin Salman taking over the mantle of the Arab autocrats that used to be held by people like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Hafez al-Assad.” 
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Saudi Arabia rebuked at UN over Jamal Khashoggi killing, abuses |NationalTribune.com

Dozens of nations condemned Saudi Arabia before the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday over serious violations and demanded accountability for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In a relatively rare rebuke of the oil-rich kingdom before the UN’s top rights body, Denmark’s Ambassador Carsten Staur read a statement on behalf of 29 states demanding…

Saudi Arabia rebuked at UN over Jamal Khashoggi killing, abuses |NationalTribune.com

Dozens of nations condemned Saudi Arabia before the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday over serious violations and demanded accountability for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a relatively rare rebuke of the oil-rich kingdom before the UN’s top rights body, Denmark’s Ambassador Carsten Staur read a statement on behalf of 29 states demanding justice for Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 by an assassination team.
In the third joint statement to the council targeting Riyadh since the killing, the mainly European countries renewed a call for “transparency and holding all those responsible accountable”.

“We stress the need for full accountability and transparent prosecution of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” said Germany’s Ambassador Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg.
The Saudi journalist was lured into the Saudi consulate to handle marriage paperwork. Within minutes, the one-time royal insider turned critic was strangled and his body dismembered, according to Turkish and US officials.
A Saudi court this month handed lengthy jail terms to eight unnamed defendants and overturned five death sentences, in a ruling harshly condemned by Khashoggi’s fiancee and UN rights expert Agnes Callamard, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.
Callamard, who like the CIA had previously linked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to the killing, decried that top officials who allegedly ordered the murder walked free.
Torture, disappearances
Tuesday’s statement, which was hailed by several human rights groups, also highlighted a wide range of other serious rights violations in Saudi Arabia.
“We remain deeply concerned by reports of torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and detainees being denied access to essential medical treatment and contact with their families,” it said.
Staur said the countries welcomed recent reforms such as restricting flogging and the death penalty against minors, but stressed journalists, activists, and others still face persecution, detention and intimidation.
The statement also echoed the criticism voiced by UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet over the “arbitrary detention” of a number of women human rights activists in the country.

She told the opening of the council session on Monday the detained women simply requested to “be empowered to make their own choices, as equals to men”, insisting “they should be released without delay”.
Saudi Arabia’s representative hit back on Tuesday insisting “the detention of any women has nothing to do with their right to exercise the freedom of expression, but for violations of the standing laws”.
“Their rights are fully respected as detainees,” he said, adding they were guaranteed a fair trial.
Tortured and sexually harassed
Saudi Arabia has detained and put on trial a dozen female activists who long campaigned for the right to drive, which was finally granted in the kingdom two years ago.
Some of the activists allege they were tortured and sexually harassed by interrogators. Staur highlighted that at least five women’s human rights defenders arrested in 2018 remain in detention.
“We reiterate our call for the release of all political detainees and are particularly concerned about the use of the counterterrorism law and other security provisions against individuals peacefully exercising their rights,” he said.

Tuesday’s statement also urged dramatic improvements as Saudi Arabia strives to obtain a seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council.
“Council membership comes with an expectation of upholding the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,” Staur said.
Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union at the United Nations Human Rights Council, decried Saudi Arabia’s “prolonged detentions of women rights defenders”, including Loujain al-Hathloul.
John Fisher of Human Rights Watch denounced Saudi Arabia’s “brutal targeting of defenders and dissidents” and urged the release of the female activists and “others arbitrarily detained”.
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Saudi Arabia tells US it wants fair solution for Palestinians |NationalTribune.com

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz spoke to United State President Donald Trump on the phone, state media reported [File: Bandar Al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via [AFP Photo] Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz told United States President Donald Trump that the Gulf country wanted to see a fair and permanent solution for the Palestinians, which was…

Saudi Arabia tells US it wants fair solution for Palestinians |NationalTribune.com

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz spoke to United State President Donald Trump on the phone, state media reported [File: Bandar Al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via [AFP Photo]
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz told United States President Donald Trump that the Gulf country wanted to see a fair and permanent solution for the Palestinians, which was the starting point for its 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, the kingdom’s state news agency reported on Monday.
The two men spoke by phone following a US-brokered accord last month under which the United Arab Emirates agreed to become the third Arab state after Egypt and Jordan to normalise ties with Israel.
King Salman told Trump that he appreciated US efforts to support peace and that Saudi Arabia wanted to see a fair and permanent solution to the Palestinian issue based on its Arab Peace Initiative.
Under the proposal, Arab nations have offered Israel normalised ties in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and site of its holiest shrines, does not recognise Israel.

A history of Arab-Israeli normalisation

However, this month the kingdom said it would allow flights between UAE and Israel, including by Israeli aircraft, to use its airspace.
During the call, Trump told King Salman that he welcomed that decision, and that the two also discussed regional security, a White House spokesman said.
Palestinian issue
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is also a White House adviser, has said he hopes another Arab country normalises ties with within months.
No other Arab state has said so far it is considering following the UAE. Egypt and Jordan normalised ties decades ago.
King Salman’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Kushner discussed the need for the Palestinians and the Israelis to resume negotiations and reach a lasting peace after Kushner visited the UAE last month.
The UAE-Israel deal was met by overwhelming opposition among Palestinians who have condemned the move as a “stab in the back”.
On Sunday, leaders of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Hamas group met to discuss the US push for diplomatic normalisation, the movement said.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniya and Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah movement, stressed the “stability” of the “axis of resistance” against Israel.

SOURCE:
News agencies

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Saudi Arabia condemns attacks by Yemen’s Houthis on Riyadh |NationalTribune.com

Saudi Arabia’s cabinet has condemned Yemen’s Houthis for targeting the Saudi capital, Riyadh, with eight armed drones and three ballistic missiles, state news agency SPA said in a statement. The statement late on Tuesday called the attacks “terroristic acts” that target civilians and threatened the lives of hundreds of people. At least two large explosions…

Saudi Arabia condemns attacks by Yemen’s Houthis on Riyadh |NationalTribune.com

Saudi Arabia’s cabinet has condemned Yemen’s Houthis for targeting the Saudi capital, Riyadh, with eight armed drones and three ballistic missiles, state news agency SPA said in a statement.
The statement late on Tuesday called the attacks “terroristic acts” that target civilians and threatened the lives of hundreds of people.
At least two large explosions were heard in Riyadh near dawn on Tuesday and smoke billowed into the sky.
The Houthis said they had hit the Saudi defence ministry and a military base, while a Saudi-led military coalition said it had shot a missile down, making no reference to targets.
There was no sign of damage to the side of the defence ministry building that is visible from the main road or to any surrounding buildings. The area was quiet on Tuesday evening, with normal traffic flows and no additional security measures.

The Houthis have repeatedly fired on Saudi Arabia during the conflict, but had not targeted Riyadh since late March, when Saudi Arabia said it shot down a missile and two residents were injured by falling debris.
Violence between the two sides has surged after the expiry last month of the six-week ceasefire prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yemen has been divided between the Saudi-backed government in the south and the Houthi movement based in the north since the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014 and the Saudi-led coalition intervened a few months later in March 2015.
Since then, tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions have been pushed to the brink of famine, in what the United Nations has called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said in a televised speech that the group fired several missiles and drones, which “pounded” military headquarters and centres in Riyadh, including the defence ministry and King Salman Air Base.
Sarea said attacks were also launched against military sites in the southern Saudi cities of Najran and Jizan.
Saudi-led coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki also condemned the latest attack on Riyadh saying it was a “deliberate hostile action designed to target civilians”.
The coalition had also shot down three missiles headed towards Najran and Jizan and a number of drones, he said.
The conflict in Yemen is largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
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