Saudi Arabia's Game of Thrones continues amid COVID-19 pandemic

Edited By: Palki Sharma WION
New Delhi, Delhi, India Updated: Jun 02, 2020, 12:01 AM(IST)

File photo of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Just like the rest of the world, Saudi Arabia is in the middle of a pandemic. But even as the kingdom has started to ease lockdown restrictions. 

Saudi Arabia's crown prince has been busy crushing dissent ever since his ascent to power in 2017. Just like the rest of the world, Saudi Arabia is in the middle of a pandemic but even as the kingdom has started to ease lockdown restrictions the de facto ruler of the kingdom, crown prince Mohammad bin Salman has been mired in another crisis.

The pressure is building on him to release imprisoned Saudi royals. They've been in five-star custody since January 2018. Now Saudi Arabia's royals are turning to the American president. They are hiring lobbyists with connections to Donald Trump and are also are planning legal lobbying, and public relations campaigns to secure their release.

Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz was among eleven princes arrested two years back. A multilingual 37-year-old educated at Paris's Sorbonne University, he was known to have not had any kind of political ambitions. And in fact, had a reputation for being a "walking blank check" for funding projects in poor countries.

Saudi Arabia justified the arrests as a consequence of an unlawful protest but the details of the arrest and prince Salman's whereabouts remain murky. He's been in jail for two years without charges. A delegation from the European parliament came to Riyadh in February to campaign for his release and now he has roped in top American lobbyist Robert Stryk signing a $2 million contract to help secure his release. This is just one royal. There's a whole lot of them.

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia has been ruthlessly eliminating potential rivals. He began a royal crackdown in 2017 in the name of fighting corruption. It was a power grab. which still continues.

In March this year, authorities arrested the Saudi king's brother prince Ahmed and nephew prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Prince Nayef was edged out as heir to the throne by MBS. Two adult children and the brother of a senior aide to prince Nayef were also detained.

Princess Basmah bint Saud, another royal perceived to be close to Prince Nayef has been jailed for a year without charge along with her daughter. She has gone public with pleas to be released from detention. She too has roped in lawyers in Washington and London. This is a tricky time for MBS-- first the pandemic. Then the crashing oil prices and economic slump and now this international effort by jailed royals.

Even the deadly virus from Wuhan has failed to put under lockdown, the Saudi game of thrones. 

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