Three leading Saudi dissident figures in a statement described the policies adopted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as destructive to the country and the nation.
The Arabic-language al-Ahd news website reported that Sultan al-Ajami, Fares al-Yami and Jaber al-Mori, three prominent Saudi dissident figures, in a statement against bin Salman condemned his policy of harsh crackdown on critics.
When bin Salman was picked up as the crown prince, there were hopes of political reforms, economic and legal development and campaign against corruption in the judiciary, but none ever happened, they said.
“Our situation is similar to a nation which has been entangled in the hands of a stupid and reckless person who dreads no deed or action. The country and people are moving towards destruction and they are joining the dissident forces outside the country to get rid of bin Salman,” the statement released by Marzouq al-Atibi, a dissident Saudi journalist, said.
Analysts believe that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death was part of a broader operation to crack down on dissidents, which should shed any remaining illusions about the kingdom.
“It comes as little surprise, sadly, that the Saudi thugs who slaughtered Jamal Khashoggi were a secret crew of enforcers for Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman,” The New York Times’ editorial board wrote in an opinion piece earlier this month.
The team had been kidnapping, detaining and torturing Saudi dissidents for over a year before they traveled to Turkish city of Istanbul to murder the Washington Post columnist.
Called the “Saudi Rapid Intervention Group” by American spies, the campaign to silence dissidents was authorized by MbS to deal with cases such as that of Khashoggi. The team has been engaged in a dozen operations since 2017, including surveillance, kidnapping, detention and torture. The operations also involved “forcibly repatriating Saudis from other Arab countries and detaining and abusing prisoners in palaces belonging to the crown prince and his father, King Salman,” according to a report by The NY Times.
The team of enforcers is known as the “Saudi Rapid Intervention Group”, which carried out at least a dozen operations before the Khashoggi murder, US intelligence officials told The NY Times.
The editorial board noted that while this new information is not surprising, it serves to finally dispel the “modernizing liberal” image that MbS had been cultivating among Western leaders and shows the world that he is a “despot who suppressed those who challenged his image and his power”.
“The revelation that the killing of Mr. Khashoggi was part of a systematic campaign against dissidents strips away any remaining illusions about Prince Mohammad,” the editorial board wrote.
“It was part of a systematic campaign to silence dissidents that was overseen by a top aide to Prince Mohammad, Saud al-Qahtani,” it added.
Prisoners of Conscience, a Saudi group that tracks political prisoners, noted that more than 2,600 Saudi dissidents had been locked up in the kingdom while the crown prince was trying to brand himself as a reformer.
Khashoggi was killed shortly after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in early October 2018. Saudi Arabia initially denied any knowledge of his whereabouts but following a rising number of contradictions in its narrative sought to blame the journalist’s death on a botched rendition operation being carried out by rogue agents.