Eleven Saudi princes arrested over austerity protest

The men were detained after demonstrating against cuts to perks for royal family members

Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. File photograph: Faisal al-Nasser/Reuters

Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. File photograph: Faisal al-Nasser/Reuters

 

Saudi authorities have detained 11 princes after they gathered at a royal palace in Riyadh to protest against austerity measures that included suspending the payment of their utility bills, Saudi media reported on Saturday.

The government information service, the Centre for International Communication, said it was checking the report.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has introduced reforms that include cutting subsidies, introducing VAT and cutting perks to royal family members to try to cope with a drop in crude prices that has caused a budget deficit estimated at 195 billion riyals in 2018.

News website sabq.org said the princes had gathered at the Qasr a-Hokm, a historic royal palace, demanding the cancellation of a royal decree that stopped state payment of water and electricity bills for royal family members.

They were also demanding compensation for a death sentence issued against a cousin, Sabq said, without naming him.

“They [the princes] were informed of the error of their demands, but they refused to leave Qasr al-Hokm,” Sabq said, quoting unidentified sources. “A royal order was issued to the royal guards . . . to intervene and they were detained and put into al-Hayer prison in preparation to put them on trial.”

Sabq said the guards who arrested the princes were from a unit linked to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is leading a campaign of reforms that involved rounding up more than 200 senior officials, including some royal family members, suspected of corruption.

The website gave no details on the identities of the princes but said the leader of the group had been identified by the initials SAS.

“Everybody is equal before the law and anyone who does not implement regulations and instructions will be held accountable, no matter who he is,” the website added. – Reuters