Shocking details have emerged about the abductions of three dissident Saudi princes in what seems to be a systematic state-run Saudi government programme to kidnap defectors and dissidents.
The three princes, all members of the Saudi regime before they became involved in peaceful political activities against the government in Riyadh, were kidnapped and taken against their will to Saudi Arabia between September 2015 and February 2016.
Their story, which was originally reported by the Guardian in March 2016, is the subject of a BBC Arabic documentary to be broadcast this week called Kidnapped! Saudi Arabia’s Missing Princes.
The most senior of the princes, Prince Sultan bin Turki, was abducted by the Saudis on 1 February 2016 together with about 20 members of his entourage, many from Western countries.
In the documentary, two Westerners in the prince’s entourage describe the moment they realized the plane they were travelling on was not landing in Cairo as planned, but had instead been diverted to Riyadh was when they realised they were part of an abduction plan.
The Westerners describe Prince Sultan screaming and fighting with the Saudi flight attendants, who produced concealed weapons in order to subdue him and control the other passengers as the plane touched down.
They said when the plane landed it was immediately surrounded by dozens of cars and military vehicles, as well as heavily armed Saudi soldiers and police. The prince was dragged kicking and screaming from the plane into an unmarked car, shouting to his entourage that they were all being abducted and that they should alert their embassies. The prince has not been seen in public since.
The rest of his entourage, which included a number of young female Westerners, were then held for three days in Saudi Arabia.
First, all their electronic devices and passports were confiscated. Then they were escorted to a Riyadh hotel by Saudi soldiers, among whom were several of the flight attendants from the plane now wearing Saudi military uniforms and armed with machine guns.
Under constant armed guard, without their passports and, in the case of the women, without the proper attire to go outside, there was no way they could leave.
Their phones and electronic devices were later returned with all pictures and evidence of their kidnapping wiped – except one picture that had been missed – interior of the plane Prince Sultan was travelling on, taken by a member of his entourage. On the third day the Westerners were marched one by one into a room at the hotel by heavily armed Saudi soldiers where a Saudi military officer apologized for the inconvenience before making them sign documents in Arabic which they did not understand.
Their kidnappers then asked them where they wanted to travel. Later they were brought one by one to the airport, walked through security and on to a plane minutes before takeoff and then had their passports returned.
The documentary reveals the systematic and brutal handling of the Saudi Government of those who voice different opinions. They do not discriminate between royal or layman abduction or even assassinating those who irk the cold-blooded rulers.
The Saudi and Moroccan authorities have made no comment in response to the new evidence.