US lawmakers are urging President Joe Biden to personally advocate for the release of two children of a former top Saudi intelligence official, Saad Al-Jabri, who are being detained by authorities in Riyadh.
In a bipartisan letter to Biden sent on Wednesday and obtained by Foreign Policy, four US lawmakers said that they had "deep concern" about the arrest and abduction of the children of Saad Al-Jabri, an exiled long-time top adviser to Mohammed Bin Nayef, a former Saudi crown prince and interior minister.
Al-Jabri fell out of favour in 2017, following the soft-coup which saw Prince Mohammed Bin Salman replace Mohammed Bin Nayef as crown prince. The 63-year-old left the kingdom and settled in Turkey before moving to Canada. Last year he filed a lawsuit in the US claiming that the Saudi crown prince, known popularly as MBS, ordered a hit squad to seek out and kill him just 13 days after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Since his departure from the kingdom over three years ago, Al-Jabri's children and members of his extended family have been used as pawns in a high-stake feud that has drawn the attention of US President Joe Biden. Fears have been raised that the lawsuit will disclose sensitive information on counter-terrorism operations coordinated between Washington and Riyadh given Al-Jabri's previous role as the kingdom's top intelligence official.
The bipartisan letter comes as the Biden administration has sought to intervene in lawsuits in Canadian courts where Saudi-owned companies have accused Al-Jabri of embezzling billions of dollars. He has denied those allegations.
"We are gravely concerned with his children's arrest," the lawmakers wrote to Biden. "The Saudi government is believed to be using the children as leverage to blackmail their father and force his return from Canada, where he currently resides in fear of possible retribution for his previous support for a rival of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin [Salman]."
"The prolonged prosecution of Dr. Aljabri and his family members has now evolved to risk the exposure of classified U.S. counter-terrorism projects," the lawmakers added.
The four senators are hoping for Biden's help facilitating a resolution that frees 23-year-old Omar Al-Jabri and 21-year-old Sarah Al-Jabri and prevents the outing of US intelligence findings in a flurry of lawsuits in Canadian courts.
Earlier in the week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) raised concerns over the fate of the siblings in a report that slammed Riyadh for practicing "collective punishment".