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European lawmaker calls for clarity on disappeared Saudi prince

Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud [Europa europa/YouTube}
Saudi Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Bin Salman Al Saud, 3 June 2016 [Europa europa/YouTube}

A detained Saudi prince has reportedly been moved to a secret location by the authorities, prompting a European lawmaker to write a letter urging for clarity on the location of the royal and his father.

Thirty-seven-year-old Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz, who was detained along with his father Abdulaziz Bin Salman Al Saud in January 2018 without any formal charges. They were first held in solitary confinement at the high-security Al-Ha'ir prison near the capital Riyadh.

They were then moved to a heavily-guarded villa in Riyadh, during which Bin Abdulaziz was moved to a secret detention site in March before being moved back to the villa two months later following international pressure including petitions from European lawmakers and a $2 million lobbying effort by the US.

That again changed last Saturday, however, when both the prince and his father were removed from the villa and taken to an "undisclosed location".

In a letter addressed to Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the EU, Belgian politician and Member of the European Parliament Marc Tarabella said on Tuesday: "It is clear that their current deprivation of liberty is arbitrary, and amounts to a violation of Saudi domestic and international obligations."

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Tarabella requested the Saudi ambassador provide greater clarity on the issue, saying that "I urge you to ask the Saudi government to provide immediately the whereabouts" of both detainees.

Speaking to the French news agency AFP, which saw the letter, a source who had close relations to the prince and his father said that the detainees were allowed regular phone calls to family during their detention at the villa, but there has not been any contact with them since their removal on Saturday. "No one knows where they moved them…They have disappeared," said the source.

Many observers have speculated as to why Prince Salman and his father were detained, as they are relatively minor members of the Saudi royal family and therefore pose little threat to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's ascension to power. Some have said, though, that it may be due to the prince's meeting with US Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff shortly before the 2016 election.

That meeting, it is said, may have ignited the Crown Prince's suspicion as Schiff is a staunch critic of President Donald Trump who backs the Saudi heir.

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