Move is being seen as further consolidation of power by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi authorities have allegedly detained three princes, including King Salman’s brother and nephew, on charges of plotting a coup, U.S. media reported on Friday.
Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, a brother of King Salman, and the monarch’s nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef were accused of treason and taken from their homes early Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported citing unnamed sources. The Saudi royal court has accused the two men, once potential contenders for the throne, of “plotting a coup to unseat the king and crown prince” and could face lifetime imprisonment or execution, the newspaper said.
The New York Times also reported the detentions, adding that Prince Nayef’s younger brother, Prince Nawaf bin Nayef, had also been detained.
There has been no immediate comment from Saudi authorities.
The detentions signal a further consolidation of power by the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is widely seen to be stamping out traces of internal dissent before a formal transfer of power from his 84-year-old father King Salman.
“Prince Mohammed is emboldened—he has already ousted any threats to his rise and jailed or murdered critics of his regime without any repercussion,” Becca Wasser, a policy analyst at the U.S.-based RAND Corporation, told news agency AFP of the latest crackdown. “This is a further step to shore up his power and a message to anyone—including royals—not to cross him.”
Prince Ahmed, said to be in his 70s, had returned to the kingdom from his base in London in the aftermath of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in what some saw as an effort to shore up support for the monarchy. Just before his return in October 2018, he had suggested to protesters in London that the Saudi royal family was not involved in the Yemen conflict, rather it was just the king and the crown prince.
The Crown Prince had already edged out Prince Nayef, the former crown prince and interior minister, in 2017 to become heir to the Arab world’s most powerful throne.