Saudi Arabia’s Missing Princes

Prince Sultan bin Turki (C) is seen inside an aircraft before he was abducted by Saudi Arabian agents, on February 1, 2016.
Prince Sultan bin Turki (C) is seen inside an aircraft before he was abducted by Saudi Arabian agents, on February 1, 2016.

In the last two years, three Saudi princes living in Europe have disappeared. All were critical of the Saudi government - and there is evidence that all were abducted and flown back to Saudi Arabia… where nothing further has been heard from them, according to a report on the BBC website.

 Prince Sultan bin Turki

Early in the morning on 12 June 2003, Saudi prince Sultan bin Turki bin Abdulaziz is being driven to a palace that belongs to his uncle on the outskirts of Geneva. It’s the king’s favorite son, Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd, who has invited him to breakfast.

Abdulaziz asks Sultan to return to Saudi Arabia - where he says a conflict over Sultan’s criticisms of the Saudi leadership will be resolved.

Sultan refuses, at which point Abdulaziz excuses himself to make a phone call and after a few moments masked men rush in. They beat Sultan and handcuff him, and then a needle is plunged into his neck.

Unconscious, Sultan is rushed to Geneva airport - and carried on to a Medevac plane that is conveniently waiting on the tarmac.

What had Prince Sultan done that could have led his family to violently drug and kidnap him?

The previous year he had arrived in Europe for medical treatment, and started giving interviews critical of the Saudi government. He condemned the country’s record on human rights, complained about corruption among princes and officials, and called for a series of reforms.

Ever since 1932, when King Abdulaziz, known as Ibn Saud, founded Saudi Arabia, the country has been ruled as an absolute monarchy. It does not tolerate dissent.

  Prince Turki bin Bandar

Prince Turki bin Bandar was once a major in the Saudi police, with responsibility for policing the royal family itself. But a bitter family dispute over a contested inheritance landed him in prison, and on his release he fled to Paris, where, in 2012, he began posting videos on YouTube calling for reform in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis reacted as they had with Prince Sultan, and tried to persuade Turki to return. When Ahmed al-Salem, the deputy minister of the interior called, the prince recorded the conversation and posted it online.

“Everybody’s looking forward to your return, God bless you,” says the deputy minister.

“Looking forward to my return?” replies Turki. “What about the letters your officers send me? ‘You son of a whore, we’ll drag you back like Sultan bin Turki.’”

The deputy minister replies reassuringly: “They won’t touch you. I’m your brother.”

“No they’re from you,” says Turki. “The ministry of interior sends them.”

Turki went on publishing videos until July 2015. Then, sometime later that year, he disappeared.

  Saud bin Saif Al-Nasr

Around the same time as Prince Turki vanished another Saudi prince, Saud bin Saif al-Nasr - a relatively minor royal with a liking for Europe’s casinos and expensive hotels - shared a similar fate.

In 2014 Saud began writing tweets that were critical of the Saudi monarchy.

He called for the prosecution of Saudi officials who’d backed the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi the previous year.

Then, in September 2015, Saud went further.

After an anonymous Saudi prince wrote two letters calling for a coup to remove King Salman, Saud publicly endorsed them - the only royal to do so. This was tantamount to treason, and may have sealed his fate.

A few days later, he tweeted: “I call for the nation to turn the content of these letters into popular pressure.” Then his Twitter account went silent.

Another dissident prince - Prince Khaled bin Farhan, who fled to Germany in 2013 - believes Saud was tricked into flying from Milan to Rome to discuss a business deal with a Russian-Italian company seeking to open branches in the Persian Gulf.

“A private plane from the company came and took Prince Saud. But it didn’t land in Rome, it landed in Riyadh,” Khaled says.

“It turned out Saudi intelligence had fabricated the entire operation,” he claims.

“Now Prince Saud’s fate is the same as Prince Turki’s, which is prison… The only fate is an underground prison.”

Prince Sultan, being higher up the royal pecking order, was shuttled between prison and house arrest. But his health was also deteriorating, so in 2010 the royal family allowed him to seek medical treatment in Boston, Massachusetts.

What he did from the safety of his US exile must have horrified the Saudis - he filed a criminal complaint in the Swiss courts, accusing Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd and Sheikh Saleh al-Sheikh of responsibility for his 2003 kidnap.

His American lawyer, Clyde Bergstresser, obtained a medical record from King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, where Sultan was admitted on 13 June 2003, which indicated that a tube had been placed into his mouth to help him breathe while anaesthetized, and that one side of his diaphragm was paralyzed - presumably as a result of the assault.

For the first time a senior Saudi royal was launching a criminal complaint, in a western court, against another family member.

In 2016, Sultan boarded an aircraft presuming it was headed for Cairo, but midway, flight attendants took out weapons, subduing him and taking him to Riyadh.

A number of people, including foreign nationals, who were unwittingly accompanying Sultan had taken images before the assault on board the plane. They had had their phones seized and images erased, save one picture. They were then held for three days before being sent back to their countries of origin.

There has been no news of Prince Sultan since then.


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