A former high-ranking Saudi official has lost his life in police custody after authorities subjected him to various forms of torture, as part of the oil-rich kingdom’s purported anti-graft campaign, which is considered the biggest purge of political dissidents and the elite in the country’s modern history.
An informed source, requesting anonymity, told Arabic-language Qatar-based al-Arab newspaper that Major General Ali bin Abdullah al-Qahtani, director of the office of the former Riyadh governor, died under torture after he was arrested by Saudi authorities on November 4.
The source added that Qahtani suffered “numerous torture sessions until he succumbed to an electric shock in the morning of December 12.”
His family found it difficult to recognize Qahtani from his face, as it had been bludgeoned.
Dozens of princes, ministers and former ministers were detained on Saturday on the order of Saudi Arabia’s so-called Anti-Corruption Committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, in a crackdown, which is widely believed to be aimed at consolidating his power.
The detained individuals are facing allegations of money laundering, bribery, extorting officials and misappropriation of public funds for personal benefits.
Prince al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, the chairman of investment firm Kingdom Holding Company, Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, the founder of Al Tayyar Travel Group, and Amr al-Dabbagh, the chairman of builder Red Sea International, are among the top business executives detained during the purge.
Political analysts say Saudi King Salman plans to relinquish power in favor of his son who is pursuing a self-promotion campaign under the cover of tackling high-level corruption.
Pundits believe the targeting of Saudi Arabia’s long-standing elite represents a shift from family rule to a more authoritarian style of governance based on a single man.
Riyadh has taken on more aggressive policies since Bin Salman’s promotion to the position of defense minister and deputy crown prince in 2015, and later to the position of crown prince.
The kingdom is currently struggling with plummeting oil prices as the Al Saud regime also faces criticism over its deadly military campaign against neighboring Yemen, which it launched in March 2015.
Many also see Riyadh’s policies as a major cause of the crises unfolding in the region, especially in Syria and Iraq.