x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Saudi diplomat kidnapped in Yemen asks family to stage protests

A Saudi diplomat held hostage in Yemen for 17 months has urged his family to organise demonstrations asking the government to meet the demands of his captors.

A Saudi diplomat held hostage in Yemen for 17 months has urged his family to organise demonstrations asking the government to meet the demands of his captors.

He made the appeal in a recording posted online late on Sunday, the fourth such statement by Abdullah Al Khalidi since Al Qaeda militants seized the Saudi vice consul in the southern city of Aden in March 2012.

Mr Al Khalidi, who wore a white robe and headdress in the video, told his family that arranging meetings with Saudi princes and officials would not ensure his release.

Instead he asked his family to take to the streets and demand the release from Saudi prisons of women and some clerics held on security grounds, saying this would be the best way to get him freed. All public protest in Saudi Arabia is illegal.

"Pressuring governments through street demonstrations is a well-known policy worldwide and if we look at neighbouring countries we will find it has yielded results," Mr Al Khalidi said.

"Go out in demonstrations and sit-ins with signs whether in Dammam or Khobar or any place that can send the message to the Saudi government," he said, referring to areas in eastern Saudi Arabia.

The authenticity of the recording could not be verified. The time of its recording was also unclear although Mr Al Khalidi also sent his family greetings on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, indicating he could have recorded the message in July.

Militants from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seized Mr Al Khalidi on March 28 last year seeking the release of female prisoners and to collect a ransom.

The group claimed responsibility for Khalidi's abduction in April.

Although weakened, Al Qaeda is still present in Yemen's south and east, and launches sporadic attacks against security forces.

Saudi Arabia had witnessed a wave of deadly attacks by Al Qaeda between 2003 and 2006, which prompted authorities to launch a crackdown on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen in the past 15 years, almost all of them later freed unharmed.

 

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse