US senators press Trump over detention of Saudi ex-spy’s children

Saad al-Jabri’s children Sarah and Omar have been detained by the Saudi government since March.

saad-al jabri
Sarah and Saad al-Jabri in Boston, US, in 2016 [File: Khalid al-Jabri/Reuters]

Four US senators have called on President Donald Trump to help free the detained children of a former top Saudi intelligence official exiled in Canada.

In a joint letter released on Thursday, Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy, Tim Kaine and Chris Van Hollen, alongside Republican Senator Marco Rubio, said the Saudi royal family was holding the children of Saad al-Jabri – Sarah and Omar – as leverage to force his return to the kingdom.

The two adult children, and a brother of Saad al-Jabri, who is said to hold key state secrets, were detained in Riyadh in March.

Al-Jabri had earlier attempted to get his children to leave Saudi Arabia but authorities had placed them under a travel ban, according to reports.

“We believe the US has a moral obligation to do what it can to assist in securing his children’s freedom. We urge you to raise this issue with senior Saudi officials and press for the immediate release of Dr Al-Jabri’s children,” the letter from the US senators stated.

Saudi authorities have so far not publicly commented on the case. 

‘Highly valued partner’

The senators claimed that al-Jabri was a “highly valued partner” of US intelligence agencies, who had aided Washington in the fight against armed groups such as al-Qaeda.

“As a top intelligence officer in Saudi Arabia, Dr Al-Jabri has been credited by former CIA officials for saving thousands of American lives by discovering and preventing terrorist plots,” the letter said

“His development of a modern forensics system in Saudi Arabia reportedly contributed to the significant curtailing of terrorist groups including al-Qaeda,” the senators added.

Al-Jabri’s intelligence career came to an end following the power struggle between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and his predecessor, Mohammed bin Nayef (MBN), to whom al-Jabri was a top aide.

MBN was put under house arrest after being replaced by MBS in June 2017, according to reports. He was arrested in March this year, reportedly because he was complaining privately about how MBS was running Saudi Arabia.  

Saudi Arabia has been exerting pressure on Canada to extradite al-Jabri even though Ottawa does not have an extradition treaty with the kingdom, local media outlet The Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Monday.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies