Mohammed bin Nayef, right, had been first in line for the throne until 2017, when Mohammed bin Salman, left, was elevated over him (AFP)
Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and Mohammed bin Nayef are among those arrested at behest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has detained three senior members of the kingdom’s royal family in an attempt to remove any potential rivals in his pursuit of 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 (MBN), the king’s nephew, were arrested early on Friday.
The details of the charges could not 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.
According to the reports, guards from the Saudi royal court arrived at the homes of the two men on Friday morning and took them into custody.
Over the past few years, their standing in the royal family has diminished since King Salman, 84, consolidated power and installed his son, MBS, as crown prince and the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
MBN was effectively placed under house arrest in 2017 after he was removed from the post of interior minister by MBS, a powerful position with oversight of troops and Riyadh’s large intelligence service.
Meanwhile, Prince Ahmed had been allowed to come and go freely from the kingdom. He returned Wednesday from a trip abroad for falconry – a popular pastime among Gulf nationals – but was arrested the next day, a person close to the family said.
‘Erratic and stupid rule’
Prince Ahmed was reported to have considered placing himself in self-imposed exile in late 2018, a senior source told Middle East Eye.
The decision came after a rare show of criticism towards the kingdom’s leadership when a group of protesters amassed outside his London residence. Prince Ahmed told Yemeni and Bahraini protesters that “the king and the crown prince” were to blame for the region’s woes.
In a previous interview with MEE, dissident Prince Khaled bin Farhan urged Prince Ahmed to seize power from MBS to protect the kingdom from his “irrational, erratic and stupid” rule.
Prince Khaled, who was given political asylum in Germany in 2013, said that if Ahmed and Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, another royal, were to unite ranks, then “99 percent of the members of the royal family, the security services and the army would stand behind them”.
Since coming to power, MBS has demonstrated his iron grip on the kingdom by launching a brutal crackdown against dissenting voices, with activists, scholars, writers, economists and public figures arrested.
in 2017, MBS locked up at least 11 Saudi princes and hundreds of Saudi businessmen in a Ritz-Carlton hotel as part of an alleged anti-corruption drive.
Several senior figures were beaten and tortured and required hospital treatment at the time.
The next year he gained international notoriety by presiding over the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi – an assassination the CIA believes the prince ordered.