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MBS 'targeting' family of Saudi official who fled to Canada with sweeping arrests

Mohammed bin Salman (pictured) reportedly wants Saad Al-Jabri back in Saudi Arabia [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 May, 2020

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A former Saudi intelligence officer living in Canada is reportedly being forced to return to the kingdom, as authorities arrest members of his family

A former Saudi Arabian intelligence officer who lives in Canada is being targeted by the kingdom via his family to pressure him to return home, according to reports by his relatives.

Saad Aljabri is an expert on artificial intelligence and was a key player in the kingdom’s confrontation with Al Qaeda.

He has been living in Canada since 2017, in fear of his life and resisting pressure from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to return, his son and associates told The New York Times.

However, since March two of Aljabri’s adult children and one of his brothers have reportedly been arrested by Saudi security forces and held incommunicado, according to his son.

“It has been weeks and we don’t know where they are,” said one of his sons, Dr. Khalid Aljabri, who lives in Canada.

“They were kidnapped from their beds. I don’t even know if they are alive or dead.”

The Saudi authorities have not confirmed the detentions.

Aljabri’s son, as well as former United States officials who work with him claim that MBS wants to force him to return to Saudi Arabia because he doesn’t want someone with knowledge of and access to secret information being so far away.

“The broader issue is that MBS is nervous about anybody who is outside of his control,” said Gerald M. Feierstein, senior vice president at the Middle East Institute in Washington. He met with Aljabri while serving as the United States Ambassador to Yemen.

Feierstein added that during his tenure in the Saudi intelligence service, he would “know where the bodies are buried,” implying that the security expert’s knowledge of the Prince could be a source of worry.


Aljabri is a linguist and computer scientist with a doctorate in artificial intelligence from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

He worked in the Interior Ministry for nearly four decades and was appointed to a cabinet-level position by King Salman.

Unlawful detention of a prince

Saudi Arabian authorities have also unlawfully detained the son of a former King and are keeping his whereabouts secret, Human Rights Watch said on Saturday, citing sources close to the royal family.

The arbitrary arrest of Prince Faisal bin Abdullah Al Saud, son of former King Abdullah who died in 2015, is the latest to be exposed in sweeping arrests of Saudi royals carried out by the kingdom's authorities.

The arrests, which started in 2017, are widely perceived as an attempt by the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) to consolidate his position within the House of Saud after his father, King Salman, came to power in 2015.

According to a statement by the rights group, Prince Faisal –the former head of the Saudi Red Crescent Society – was detained on March 27 and like Aljabri's relatives also appears to be held incommunicado.

"Despite waves of criticism, the lawless behavior of Saudi authorities during the de facto rule of Mohammed bin Salman continues unabated," Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said, according to the HRW statement.

"Now we have to add Prince Faisal to the hundreds detained in Saudi Arabia without a clear legal basis," Page added.

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