Saudi princes arrested for anti-austerity protest

Posted January 09, 2018

Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MbS) is using an elite force of the Royal Guard to suppress dissent in the royal family, according to Saudi media reports.

Saudi authorities on January 4 arrested 11 royal family members who protested a decree which ordered the state to stop paying their electric and water bills.

All the eleven princes were detained by the Saudi authorities and were sent to al-Hayer prison after they gathered at Qasr a-Hokm royal palace to object to austerity measures recently imposed on members of the royal family. "Despite being informed that their demands are not lawful, the 11 princes refused to leave the area, disrupting public peace and order". "No one is above the law in Saudi Arabia".

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has been overseeing anti-corruption, austerity and social reforms programs since late past year, which included giving women the right to drive automobiles. "Members of a security services stepped in to restore order and the princes were arrested", the public prosecutor's statement said, without identifying the princes. The country plans to slash its generous welfare program and open energy giant Saudi Aramco to partial privatization.

They have been held at the five-star Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh while government officials negotiate financial settlements, asking them to hand over assets and cash in return for their freedom.

A year ago dozens of princes, as well as sitting ministers and ex-ministers, were arrested as part of an anti-corruption drive. Income remains tax exempt.

As compensation for the increase in living expenses, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ordered civil servants to receive an additional 1000 riyals per month (about 220 EUR).

About 1.18 million Saudis are employed in the government sector and there are more than 1.23 million pensioners and beneficiaries of pension payments, the central bank says.