Three Saudi Arabian princes critical of the Kingdom have disappeared

New documentary shines light on the alleged abduction of three members of the House of Saud who called for reform in the authoritarian Kingdom 

Tuesday 15 August 2017 10:28
Prince Turki bin Bandar, who disappeared from Paris in late 2015, meeting Pakistan’s finance minister in 2003
Prince Turki bin Bandar, who disappeared from Paris in late 2015, meeting Pakistan’s finance minister in 2003

New information on three separate cases involving the disappearances of Saudi princes has come to light, suggesting the dissident members of the House of Saud were kidnapped by the Saudi government and returned to the country against their will.

Three princes – Prince Sultan bin Turki bin Abdulaziz, resident in Geneva and then Massachusetts, Prince Turki bin Bandar of Paris and Saud bin Saif al-Nasr of Milan – have all vanished in the last two years.

A new BBC Arabic documentary screening on Tuesday called Kidnapped! Saudi Arabia’s Missing Princes suggests that all three were abducted on European soil and returned to Riyadh in a systematic attempt by the Saudi authorities to silence high-profile defectors.

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Prince Sultan, the most high-ranking of the three, was tempted onto a government jet which officials said would take him from Boston to Cairo to visit his father in January 2016.

Some of his 18-person strong entourage, made up of foreign nationals, told the documentary-makers that the plane was instead re-routed to Riyadh. When the plane landed the prince was dragged off by armed men as he screamed at his team to call the US embassy. He has not been heard from since.

The prince, who had long called for reform in the authoritarian Kingdom, had previously filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland accusing members of his family of drugging him and bundling him onto a plane bound for Riyadh when he was resident in Geneva in 2003.

Prince Turki bin Bandar, once a major in the Saudi police, fled to Paris after a bitter family inheritance argument which led to his arrest in 2012, and began writing pieces and posting YouTube videos critical of the regime and its alleged human rights abuses.

He disappeared in late 2015. According to the documentary, the only trace of him was an article in a Moroccan newspaper which said he’d been arrested in the country while visiting from France, and then deported to Saudi Arabia at Riyadh’s request.

At around the same time Prince Turki vanished, so did minor royal Saud bin Saif al-Nasr – resident in Milan – who had backed a letter calling for King Salman to be overthrown.

His friend and fellow dissident Prince Khaled bin Farhan believes he was tricked into flying from Milan to Rome to discuss a business deal which was actually a kidnap plot engineered by the Saudi government to take him back to Riyadh.

The Saudi and Moroccan authorities did not respond to the BBC or The Independent’s request for comment.

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