Saudi authorities seize children of exiled intelligence chief

Former cabinet minister Saad al-Jabri was strategic architect of Saudi counter-terrorism efforts

 Mohammed bin Nayef:  downfall of the former  Saudi crown prince led to the defection to Canada of his former cabinet minister and intelligence chief Saad al-Jabri. Photograph:  AFP

Mohammed bin Nayef: downfall of the former Saudi crown prince led to the defection to Canada of his former cabinet minister and intelligence chief Saad al-Jabri. Photograph: AFP

 

The Saudi authorities have seized the children of Saudi exiled intelligence operative Saad al-Jabri to exert pressure on him to return home.

A PhD in artificial intelligence from Edinburgh University, Dr Jabri is the most important Saudi defector living in exile as he was the strategic architect of Saudi anti-terrorism efforts.

He served as a major general in the interior ministry and held the rank of cabinet minister until being removed by King Salman in 2015, reportedly for opposing the Yemen war.

His son and daughter Omar (21) and Sarah (20) were “kidnapped at dawn on March 16th and taken out of their beds by about 50 state security officers who arrived in 20 cars”, another son, Khalid al-Jabri, told the BBC after weeks of failing to discover their whereabouts.

He and his father, who expects arrest if he returns to Saudi Arabia, live in Canada, where they say they have received death threats.

Khalid al-Jabiri said they felt pushed into raising the issue publicly and described the kidnapping of his brother and sister as “daylight thuggery by a state”. Their uncle, the brother of Dr Jabri, was also taken. The three have been held incommunicado, no charges have been laid and no reason has been given for their detention.

“We don’t even know if they are alive or dead,” Khalid said.

Dr Jabri fears that if he were to meet Saudi representatives for negotiations he could meet the same fate as dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was lured into Istanbul’s Saudi consulate in 2018, murdered and dismembered.

At the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Khashoggi’s son Salah tweeted that the family had pardoned his father’s killers. Five me have been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s murder.

Crown prince

Dr Jabri has extensive knowledge of the workings of the Saudi court and intelligence services. He worked closely with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef who, as security chief and interior minister, imprisoned hundreds of Saudi rights activists and suppressed al-Qaeda.

In October 2010, the prince warned Washington of an al-Qaeda plot to blow up two cargo planes due to fly from Yemen to the US. He routinely liaised with counterparts in the US, UK, France, Australia and New Zealand and was decorated by Washington and Paris for his counter-terrorism campaign.

In April 2015, he was named crown prince but in June 2017 was ousted in a coup and put under palace arrest by the king’s son Mohammed bin Salman, who became crown prince and de facto ruler of the kingdom. Dr Jabri went into exile.

In March this year, Mohammed bin Nayef was arrested along with his half brother, Nawaf, and uncle, Prince Ahmad and charged with treason for plotting against Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi political exiles everywhere have lived in fear since Khashoggi’s assassination.

The Saudi authorities have not commented on the claims by Dr Jabri’s family.