Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Saudi seeks extradition of former intelligence chief after bribery failed

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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has targeted the family of a former intelligence official and tried to have him extradited through Interpol when efforts to bribe him failed, it has been alleged in media reports over the weekend, including Al Jazeera and the New York Times.

Saad Al-Jabri has faced false allegations of corruption that have been condemned by the international police organisation as a politically motivated campaign to silence critics of the de-facto ruler of the Kingdom.

With parallels to the efforts to silence Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi prior to his murder in October 2018, details of the campaign against Al-Jabri, a high profile intelligence official, reveal that Bin Salman has allegedly gone to extreme lengths to force the former spy chief to return to Saudi Arabia. The 62 year-old fled the Kingdom fearing the Crown Prince’s authoritarian streak.

Among other efforts, the prince tried to lure him with a new job. When that failed, he sought unsuccessfully to have him extradited on corruption charges through Interpol. That too failed, but led to the arrest of Al-Jabri’s two children in Riyadh.

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Al-Jabri fell out of favour in 2017, following the soft-coup which saw Bin Salman replacing Mohammed Bin Nayef as Crown Prince. The official left the Kingdom fearing a crackdown and settled in Turkey, while the prince moved against domestic allies of Nayef, who by then had been placed under house arrest.

Al-Jabri was asked to return to Riyadh to help solve an unspecified issue with Bin Nayef, according to text messages and legal documents obtained by the New York Times. The newspaper uncovered details of the Crown Prince’s campaign of bullying and threats.

Despite writing a letter pledging allegiance to the Crown Prince, the de facto ruler imposed a travel ban on Al-Jabri’s children because their father refused to return to Saudi Arabia. Bin Salman linked the fate of the children to Al-Jabri’s return. When that didn’t work, he threatened to have the former official arrested abroad. When the Saudi authorities filed a notice with Interpol asking other nations to help with Al-Jabri’s extradition, he fled to Canada. No details of the charges against Al-Jabri or any evidence was provided for the notice, which Interpol dismissed in or around July 2018.

Indeed, Interpol criticised the Kingdom’s handling of previous corruption cases for “the lack of due process and human rights guarantees.” Suggesting that the arrest warrant for Al-Jabri was politically motivated, the international body also cited the 2017 anti-corruption crackdown saying that it was “part of a political strategy by [Bin Salman] to target any potential political rival or opposition.”

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Al-Jabri has a number of Democrat lawmakers backing him in the US. Following the arrest of his two children in March, Senator Patrick J Leahy of Vermont wrote on Twitter about a letter sent from him and three other senators to President Donald Trump. “The Saudi royal family is holding Sarah and Omar Al-Jabri as hostages,” they said. “For a government to use such tactics is abhorrent. They should be released immediately.”

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