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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Saudi Arabia detains 11 princes where 'no one is above law'

Reports said 11 princes were arrested after gathering to demand the cancellation of a royal decree that stopped payment of water and electricity bills for royals

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pictured here attending the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh on October 24, 2017, has spearheded economic and social reforms in the kingdom, including the cutting of subsidies and perks to royal family members. Fayez Nureldine / AFP
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pictured here attending the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh on October 24, 2017, has spearheded economic and social reforms in the kingdom, including the cutting of subsidies and perks to royal family members. Fayez Nureldine / AFP

Saudi authorities have detained 11 princes after they gathered at a royal palace in Riyadh in a rare protest against austerity measures that included suspending payment of their utility bills, Saudi media reported on Saturday.

Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb, attorney general of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, issued the following statement on Saturday evening:

"A group of 11 princes staged a sit-in at the historic Qasr Al Hokm palace on Thursday. They said they were objecting to a recent Royal Order that halted payments by the State to members of the Royal Family to cover their electricity and water utility bills.

"They were also seeking compensation to be paid to them for a death sentence that was issued against one of their cousins who had been convicted of killing another man and executed in 2016.

"Despite being informed that their demands are not lawful, the 11 princes refused to leave the area, disrupting public peace and order. Members of security services stepped in to restore order and the princes were arrested. Following their arrest, they have been charged on a number of counts in relation to these offences. They are detained at Al Hayer prison south of the capital pending their trial.

"No one is above the law in Saudi Arabia, everyone is equal and is treated the same as others. Any person, regardless of their status or position, will be held accountable should they decide not to follow the rules and regulations of the State."

Saudi Arabia has introduced reforms that include cutting subsidies, introducing value added tax (VAT) and cutting perks to royal family members to try to cope with a drop in crude prices that has caused a budget deficit estimated at 195 billion riyals in 2018.

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Quoting unidentified sources, the online news website sabq.org said the princes gathered at the historic royal palace "were informed of the error of their demands, but they refused to leave Qasr Al Hokm.

"A royal order was issued to the royal guards … to intervene and they were detained and put into Al Hayer prison in preparation to put them on trial."

It gave no details on the identity of the princes but said the leader of the group had been identified by the initials SAS.

"Everybody is equal before the law and anyone who does not implement regulations and instructions will be held accountable, no matter who he is," the website added.

The Arabic-language daily newspaper Okaz carried a similar report.

Last year, Saudi Arabia rounded up dozens of royal family members, and current and former senior officials in a crackdown on corruption. They were held at the Ritz Hotel in the capital, Riyadh, while government officials negotiated financial settlements.

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