Relatives of Saudi defector target of harassment at home: Report

Saudi authorities are reportedly using extreme harassment tactics against relatives of a dissident hiding abroad to force him to return to the kingdom.

The New York Times on Thursday said Saad Aljabri, a former Saudi intelligence officer, has been under increasing pressure by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to return to Saudi Arabia from Canada, where he has been hiding fearing his life.

Aljabri’s son and associates told the newspaper that authorities had arrested four senior members of his family, including two of his adult children.

“They were kidnapped from their beds. I don’t even know if they are alive or dead … It has been weeks and we don’t know where they are,” said Khalid Aljabri about the relatives arrested in Saudi Arabia.

Pressuring Aljabri by bin Salman comes two years after the young Saudi Prince reportedly orchestrated the gruesome assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist who had been critical of bin Salman’s policies before he was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

Aljabri, a graduate of artificial intelligence from Scotland, is believed to be very well-informed about Saudi Arabia’s top secrets, including the identities of dissidents killed by bin Salman and the place where they have been buried.

The former officer served for a while as the right-hand man to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a former Crown Prince who has been sidelined by bin Salman.

Saudi authorities have accused Aljabri of involvement in corruption, saying he has been misusing his position to amass a personal fortune. Bin Salman wants him in the kingdom to have the money back.

Some fear that Aljabri could eventually be forced back to Riyadh through Washington’s lobbying given the close ties between bin Salman and the US administration. That could pose the defector to a similar fate like Khashoggi, whose killing has yet to be met by a firm response in the US.

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