Saudi Arabia has detained another relative of a former security official, now in hiding in Canada, says the brother-in-law of the man being imprisoned.
Khalid Aljabri, a physician trained in Canada, says his brother-in-law Salem Almuzaini was arrested without charge or justifiable cause on Aug. 24. “Another family member disappeared in a blatant effort to terrorize my family,” he tweeted early Wednesday.
He said in an accompanying statement on Twitter that Mr. Almuzaini’s whereabouts are unknown and that his arrest is an attempt to “intimidate and blackmail” his father, Saad Aljabri, who helped build bridges with visiting Canadian cabinet ministers and intelligence officials when he was part of Riyadh’s security apparatus.
Saad Aljabri had been the former top counterintelligence chief under deposed crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef. He has been quietly living in Canada with some of his family members since 2017.
The Globe and Mail reported earlier this month that a source said Saad Aljabri is under heightened security in Canada after Canadian security agencies were recently alerted to a new attempt to assassinate him. He is living at an undisclosed location in Toronto under the protection of the RCMP and private security.
In May, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his advisers were overheard saying they planned “to send men to kill Dr. Saad in Canada by ‘land this time’ – that is by dispatching agencies from the United States to travel across the border to complete the job,” according to court filings in a U.S. federal court.
As indicated in the same court documents, the Crown Prince allegedly dispatched a hit squad to Canada in October, 2018, to try to kill Saad Aljabri – the bid was foiled when Canada Border Services officers refused all but one entry at Ottawa’s Macdonald-Laurier International Airport. This effort, allegedly, was made less than two weeks after Saudi agents killed dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
Khalid Aljabri said Mr. Almuzaini’s arrest is a “blatant attempt by MBS to interfere with the U.S. judicial process.”
Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, said that while the government cannot comment on specific allegations before the courts, it is aware of incidents in which foreign actors have attempted to monitor, intimidate or threaten Canadians and those living in Canada.
“Canadians can be confident that our security agencies have the skills and resources necessary to detect, investigate and respond to such threats,” she said.
Khalid Aljabri said Tuesday that his brother-in-law, Mr. Almuzaini, joins two of his own siblings, Sarah and Omar, who were detained in March, and have not been heard from since. Saad Aljabri’s brother was also arrested earlier this year.
“My innocent siblings Sarah and Omar have been held incommunicado in Saudi since March because our father rebuffed MBS’s demands that he return to the kingdom, where true justice cannot be found. The U.S. gov’t is among many demanding Sarah and Omar be freed,” Khalid Aljabri said.
“They are hostages, innocent of wrongdoing. MBS and Saudi authorities should do the right thing. The continuing lawless persecution of my family must stop now. We hold MBS and the Saudi authorities legally responsible for their well-being and safety,” he said.
His brother-in-law was arrested, said Khalid Aljabri, after he willingly went to a state security service office in Riyadh on Monday. He said he has not been seen or heard from since, and has already suffered at the hands of Saudi forces.
“In 2017, Salem was renditioned from the UAE to Saudi, tortured and then “freed” in January, 2018 after his savings were seized and he was forbidden from travelling abroad – all the more problematic because Salem’s wife and children reside in Canada,” he wrote.
Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, said detaining the relatives is “entirely consistent” with the Crown Prince’s behaviour.
“There are other known instances, and presumably unknown instances too, of pressure on the families of dissidents as a way to try to quiet them, to intimidate them, to shut them up, to tone down their criticism and in some ways, to coax them to come back to Saudi Arabia by imprisoning and in some cases torturing family members,” Prof. Juneau said.
Relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia have been strained since August, 2018, when then-foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted that Saudi Arabia should “immediately release” imprisoned human-rights activists.
The Saudis were enraged, calling the tweet “blatant interference in the kingdom’s domestic affairs.” Riyadh recalled its ambassador, Naif bin Bandar Al-Sudairi, expelled Canadian ambassador Dennis Horak and ordered thousands of Saudi students studying in Canada to return home.
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