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MbS henchman Qahtani fired over Khashoggi murder 'still active'

Saud Al-Qahtani was dismissed for his role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi [Twitter]

Date of publication: 15 January, 2019

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Saud al-Qahtani was dismissed from his position for his involvement in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, however sources revealed the top aide remains active in the kingdom.
A prominent Saudi royal advisor who was fired over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi still maintains influence Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s inner circle, according to Western, Arab and Saudi sources with links to the royal court, Reuters reported.

Saud al-Qahtani was dismissed as a top aide to the controversial crown prince in late October for his involvement in the operation to kill Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

Al-Qahtani gave orders to execute the murder via Skype, according to regional intelligence sources.

But six sources claimed the former senior official continues to be active on behalf of the royal court, which he led before his dismissal, with two confirming he is still in contact with Mohammed bin Salman, more commonly known as MbS. Three of the sources revealed al-Qahtani supervises Saudi journalists writing on the kingdom’s policies. 

Five of the sources confirmed al-Qahtani has continued to make repeated visits at the royal court since his dismissal, although it was not clear in what capacity.

“He is still around, free and in favour. The crown prince is still holding on to him and doesn’t seem to be willing to sacrifice him,” one of the foreign sources said.

A source familiar with the discussion between the crown prince and visitors revealed MbS himself has confirmed to visitors that while al-Qahtani remains an advisor, some responsibilities have been taken from him.

A Saudi official denied al-Qahtani was still playing a role inside the royal court, saying he has not conducted any work since his dismissal and that he remains under investigation and banned from travel.

The remarks came after the sister of detained Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul confirmed reports that she has been subjected to sexual harassment and torture while in detention, in the presence of al-Qahtani.

Alia al-Hathloul revealed the details of the abuses her sister has faced in an article published in The New York Times on Sunday.

Alia said that Loujain has told their parents that Saudi authorities, including top royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani, have subjected her to torture and threats of rape.

"She said she had been held in solitary confinement, beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed and threatened with rape and murder. My parents then saw that her thighs were blackened by bruises," Alia wrote.

"Qahtani was present several times when Loujain was tortured, she said. Sometimes Qahtani laughed at her, sometimes he threatened to rape and kill her and throw her body into the sewage system," she said.

Alia added that a delegation from the Saudi Human Rights Commission visited Loujain in prison and told her they were unable to protect her.

Dubbed the "Saudi Steve Bannon", al-Qahtani was a brutal media enforcer for Mohammed bin Salman, masterminding the arrest of hundreds of the country's elite and orchestrating the detention of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

He was a royal adviser to Mohamed bin Salman until he was sacked in October, a move that was widely seen as an attempt to scapegoat Saudi officials and cover up Prince Mohammed's likely role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A Turkish intelligence source said in October that Qahtani told his men to dispose of Khashoggi. "Bring me the head of the dog", the Turkish intelligence source says Qahtani instructed.

Around 11 messages were sent between Qahtani and the crown prince roughly at the time of the journalist's brutal murder, according to the CIA.

Writing for the Washington Post earlier this year, Khashoggi alleged Qahtani maintained a "blacklist" for writers critical of the kingdom and was known to intimidate them.

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