Saudi Arabia Targets Family of Ex-spy Chief
By Staff, Agencies
Human rights advocates call on Saudi Arabia to immediately release the family of former intelligence official Saad al-Jabri - who is living in exile in Canada and resisting pressure from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS] to return to the kingdom.
Jabri, who was a key go-between for Western spy agencies, sought refuge in Canada in 2017 days before his former boss, Mohammed bin Nayef, was ousted by his younger cousin MBS in a palace coup.
Middle East Eye reported in March that after fleeing from Riyadh in 2017, Jabri was "chased" by Saudi authorities who were willing to do "anything to get him back".
Human Rights Watch reported on Tuesday that after Saudi authorities arrested bin Nayef and Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, a younger brother of King Salman, earlier this year, Jabri's children were subsequently detained in a bid to coerce him back to Riyadh.
Saudi authorities had frozen the children's bank accounts and confiscated their financial assets after their father left in 2017, HRW said. Both were also interrogated separately about their father's whereabouts in 2018.
The children were reported to have been summoned from the Presidency of State in early March and were told by security officials that their father "must return to the kingdom," the rights group said.
It added that less than a week later, on 16 March, Jabri's son Omar, 21, and daughter Sarah, 20, were dragged out of their beds at 6 am by armed security officers.
Family members told reporters last week that after weeks of failing to discover the whereabouts of Omar and Sarah, they felt pressured into raising the issue publicly, describing the kidnappings as "daylight thuggery by a state".
Jabri's brother, Abdulrahman, a professor of electrical engineering in his sixties, was also taken, they said.
According to the rights group, no charges have been laid against the three and no reason has been given for their detention.
"It has been weeks and we don't know where they are," Khalid, another of Jabri's sons was quoted as saying. "They were kidnapped from their beds. I don't even know if they are alive or dead."
One of Omar al-Jabri's former classmates slammed the arrests as "disgraceful" and "immoral," calling for the immediate release of the detainees.
Michael Page, the deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, also denounced the arrests, saying the children had been held incommunicado since March.
"Saudi authorities are sinking to new lows in going after the families of former officials out of favour with the current leadership," he said.
"How can anyone describe the Saudi leadership as reformist while it's arbitrarily detaining the children of former officials?"
HRW said the arrests may qualify as an "enforced disappearance".
Sources told MEE earlier this year that shortly before Jabri went to Canada where he secured refuge in November 2017, he spent a brief period in Boston.
Despite Jabri having extensive relationships with the US intelligence community as bin Nayef's aide, the former intelligence official did not feel safe with Donald Trump in power.
Members of the US Congress, and high-ranking officials in other countries, have accused the White House of ignoring human rights abuses under MBS' leadership and of Trump giving the crown prince a pass after the brutal killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.