Saudi king’s brother ‘considers exile’ after Yemen war criticism

Senior royal Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz said King Salman and his crown prince were responsible for the war in Yemen.

King Salman - Mohamed bin Salman
Public displays of dissent are rare in the kingdom, where government critics are harshly punished [Saudi Press Agency/AP File]

A senior Saudi prince is considering exile after blaming King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the war in Yemen, according to a report by the Middle East Eye (MEE).

The UK-based website, quoting an unnamed source close to Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, said on Friday the Saudi king’s brother may not return to Saudi Arabia after a video of his comments was posted online last week. 

In the video, Prince Ahmed, one of the few remaining sons of the kingdom’s founder, can be heard telling anti-war protesters gathered outside his London residence that the entire family should not be blamed for the war in Yemen

“There are specific people who are responsible. Don’t blame the entire family,” the prince said.

Asked who the individuals were, the prince said it “was the king and his heir apparent.”

“In Yemen and elsewhere, our hope is that the war ends today before tomorrow,” he added.

The video was widely circulated online and sparked furious speculation about possible discord within the Saudi royal family. 

The official Saudi Press Agency issued a statement attributed to Prince Ahmed shortly after the video was published, which said that the interpretation of his comments was “inaccurate”. 

“I have made it clear that the king and crown prince are responsible for the state and its decisions,” the prince said in the statement. 

“This is true for the security and stability of the country and the people. Therefore, it is not possible to interpret what I said in any other way.”

However, the MEE said its source claimed Prince Ahmed stood by his original remarks.

“He said the report by state controlled SPA was fake and that the words quoted by the agency were not his,” MEE reported.

Wave of arrests

Public displays of dissent are rare in the kingdom, where critics of the Saudi monarch face lengthy jail sentences, corporal punishment and hefty fines. 

Dozens of royal family members, ministers and top businessmen were arrested in November 2017 during an “anti-corruption purge” launched by Mohammed bin Salman. Allegations against those detained included money laundering, bribery, and extorting officials.

The crackdown, which came via royal decree, was said to be in response to “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to illicitly accrue money”.

Most were freed after reaching settlement deals with the government, including Saudi businessman and billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

Analysts say the arrests were a way for the crown prince to consolidate economic and political power in Saudi Arabia.

Prince Ahmed previously served as interior minister in 2012 under the late King Abdullah before he was replaced by Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

Source: Al Jazeera