Monday 06 July 2020

HRW: Riyadh must free children of ex-Saudi official in exile, overhaul justice system

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for the immediate release of two adult children of a former Saudi intelligence officer, who has been lying low abroad since the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to power.

The New York-based rights body said in a report on Tuesday that Omar al-Jaberi, 21, and Sarah al-Jaberi , 20, children of Saad al-Jabri — who has lived in exile in Canada since 2017 — had been detained in March.

Riyadh’s forces also arrested Jabri’s brother in May, the report added.

An informed source told the HRW that Jabri’s family believes the detentions are meant to coerce the father to return to Saudi Arabia.

Jabri was a senior aide to the deposed former crown prince, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and served as the primary Saudi liaison to Western spy agencies.

Bin Nayef, who was always regarded as the senior royal figure closest to western governments, briefly became heir to the throne but was ousted in a palace coup in 2017.

Fearing for his life, Jabri, who was abroad at the time, decided not to return home.

His children were arrested 10 days after the detention of bin Nayef and another senior prince, Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, a brother of King Salman and an uncle of bin Salman, also known as MbS.

Prior to his detention, bin Nayef had effectively been under house arrest since his ouster in the 2017 coup that brought MbS to power.

“Saudi authorities should immediately inform relatives of Sarah and Omar’s whereabouts and well-being, release them, and end their travel bans,” HRW said on Monday.

“Saudi authorities are sinking to new lows in going after the families of former officials out of favor with the current leadership,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

The official questioned Saudi Arabia’s so-called modernization plan while it is launching a wide arbitrary detention campaign, calling for a full overhaul of the kingdom’s justice system.

“How can anyone describe the Saudi leadership as reformist while it’s arbitrarily detaining the children of former officials?” she asked. “Saudi Arabia’s recent justice reforms have not curbed the authorities’ contempt for the rule of law, showing the country needs a full overhaul of the justice and security sectors.” 

The crackdown under bin Salman began in September 2017 with the arrest of dozens of critics and rights activists in what was widely interpreted as an attempt to crush dissent.

Bin Salman has reportedly been putting pressure on Jabri to return to Saudi Arabia.

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