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Detained Saudi official's children were 'first victims' of MbS, brother claims

The siblings were barred from leaving Saudi Arabia hours after MbS was sworn in [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 June, 2020

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A interview with Khalid Aljabri reveals striking new details about the plight of his brother and sister Sarah and Omar Aljabri - who disappeared in Saudi Arabia in March.

The children of a former senior Saudi intelligence official have been devastatingly swept up in the intensifying royal crackdown by Saudi Arabia's de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, their sibling has revealed.

In an interview with The Guardian, Khalid Aljabri explained new details about the plight of his brother and sister, Sarah and Omar Aljabri, who disappeared in the kingdom in March.

A wave of royals have been detained by Prince Mohammed, known as MbS, as he eliminates potential rivals to amass power unseen by previous rulers.

Sarah, 20, and Omar, 21, and their uncle were arrested only 10 days after authorities detained the Saudi king's brother Prince Ahmed and nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, their older brother Khalid revealed.

Their father, Saad Aljabri, was once a senior aide to Prince Nayef and is exiled in Canada. He had attempted to get his children out of Saudi Arabia but authorities placed them under a travel ban.

His son Khalid, also now living in Canada, described to The Guardian how his younger brother and sister were some of the first victims of the crown prince's purges.

"A lot of people know about the September purge when he came for the intellectuals, and the Ritz Carlton, and Loujain [al-Hathloul] and the driving advocates, and Jamal Khashoggi and every other person in between. But the first purge was Omar and Sarah," he told The Guardian.

It appears that the children are caught up in Prince Mohammed vendetta with Saad AlJabri.

Aljabri was vocally opposed to Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen's civil war and was allegedly a key liaison with Western spy agencies, including MI6.

Saudi press claimed that Aljabri "stole" from the kingdom, something the family strongly denies.

"We have evidence to prove that any allegations are politically motivated. We would welcome any legal challenge. And how does any such allegation justify kidnapping two children?" Khalid said.

Travel ban

By 2017, Saad Aljabri had already fled Saudi Arabia as what Khalid described as the "Game of Thrones" power struggle between Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Nayef intensified.

Sarah and Omar were the only family members who remained in Saudi Arabia, Khalid said. 

After Mohammed bin Salman was sworn in as crown prince that year, the family urged Sarah and Omar to head to the airport with their passports and leave the country. 

But Sarah was barred from leaving due to "security reasons", Khalid said. Although Omar was let through he "I cannot leave her".

It then emerged that Omar had also been banned from travel - just a few hours after MbS was sworn in.

"The guy's first order was banning a couple of kids from travel. It tells you what intention he had with my dad," Khalid said.

"We did not know if it was a temporary measure or if it was going to last forever."

Arrest

Omar and Sarah returned to school while their parents travelled on to Canada. The family's only communication in this period was through text and calls. 

After Mohammad bin Nayef and other Saudi royals were arrested, Omar and Sarah were summoned to meet with state security officials.

In these meetings, the siblings were pressured to convince their father to return to Saudi Arabia.

Then on 16 March, the family could no longer reach Sarah. Witnesses told the family that they had seen cars and officials at the house who had taken the siblings. 

Khalid told The Guardian that Saudi officials have ignored his calls.  

"I've asked them where they're being held and if they are OK and that I need to comfort my mother. They read the messages and they don't respond," Khalid said.

Read more: Pressure grows on MBS to release jailed Saudi prince

"Sarah and Omar have disappeared. We know nothing about them. Hopefully they are still together. They are best friends. Obviously it's scary when you know what these guys are capable of."

The Aljabris have called on the US government, and the European Union - Sarah and Omar have Maltese citizenship - to intervene.

Human Rights Watch called on Saudi Arabia in May to immediately release the two adult children and brother of Saad Aljabri. HRW said they are being held in incommunicado detention in a bid to coerce Aljabri back to the kingdom to face punishment.

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