Over the past couple of weeks Saudi Arabia has upped the ante with regard to retaliation against the family members of political dissenters in the Kingdom. Former senior official Saad Al-Jabri’s children and other members of his family, for example, have been amongst the victims.
According to reports, the Saudi security agents have confiscated computer equipment belonging to Al-Jabri’s family. Moreover, his son Omar, 21, and daughter Sarah, 20, were apparently “kidnapped” 10 days after Prince Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz and Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef were detained. Al-Jabri’s brother was also detained earlier this month.
Saad Al-Jabri is a long-time aide and confidant of former Crown Prince Bin Nayef, and has been living in exile in Canada since 2017. King Salman replaced Bin Nayef as heir to the throne in June 2017, appointing his own son Mohammad Bin Salman to the position just days later. The ex-Crown Prince has been confined to his palace in Jeddah, seemingly as a precautionary measure to protect Bin Salman, 31, from any challenge from within the House of Saud. In early March this year, Bin Nayef and former Interior Minister Bin Abdul Aziz were detained and placed under investigation for treason, although no charges have been made.
Al-Jabri’s family has not been the only one targeted by the Saudi government. Riyadh has also applied pressure, albeit utilising a different approach, on the family of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist who was tortured and killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Initial signs of pressure against Khashoggi’s family were manifest when his son Salah visited Bin Salman at his palace days after his father’s murder. Pictures showed a “visibly intimidated yet compelled” Salah shaking the hand of the man at the top who, it is believed, ordered the killing. In April last year, Salah Khashoggi thanked Bin Salman for his generosity and humanity as he promised that the Kingdom would seek justice for his father. Saudi Arabia accepted responsibility of the journalist’s murder and has since charged some members of the security agencies with the crime. The names of the accused and details of the court proceedings have never been made public nor, indeed, have Khashoggi’s remains ever been found.
Jamal Khashoggi was living in exile in Turkey at the time of his death and was due to marry Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish citizen. She has since been outspoken on different platforms and has not given in to the cajolement of the Saudi government to refrain from talking about her fiancé. Instead, she has toured the world seeking justice on his behalf, and has been unwavering in her demand for Saudi Arabia to reveal the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s remains.
Her uncompromising stance is in marked contrast to that of Khashoggi’s family in Saudi Arabia. A statement posted last Friday by Salah Khashoggi on behalf of the family pardoned his father’s murderers. Cengiz has rejected such a pardon. “Jamal Khashoggi has become an international symbol bigger than any of us, admired and loved,” she tweeted later. “His ambush, and heinous murder does not have a statute of limitations and no one has the right to pardon his killers. I and others will not stop until we get #JusticeforJamal.”
What Khashoggi’s family in Saudi Arabia apparently fails to understand is that the manner and location of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has set a dangerous political precedent. The mere fact that it occurred in a Consulate makes it everyone’s concern. If left unchallenged it could become the norm to lure dissidents into such buildings in order to silence them, creating chaos in international relations, diplomatic protocols and global politics.
Pardoning the murderers is a smack in the face for those who are working tirelessly to find out exactly what happened to the journalist, and why. The people involved are now themselves at risk from a brutal regime which, clearly, will not hesitate to take action to stop them in any way that it can. Many of the Muslims amongst them have sacrificed any chance they might have had of performing pilgrimage in the Holy Cities in Saudi Arabia as long as Bin Salman is the de facto ruler of the Kingdom. Justice for Khashoggi has become too personal for too many people to be forgiven by a few; it is no longer strictly a family affair. That is why the journalist’s fiancée has rejected the pardon issued by his son, who should respect her position.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.