Three Saudi princes were allegedly abducted from three different countries over the past two years in what is believed to be a part of the Saudi government's plan to silence defectors and dissidents.
In a new BBC Arabic documentary called "Kidnapped! Saudi Arabia’s Missing Princes," new details have emerged about the mysterious disappearances of the three members of the Saudi royal family, all of whom were reportedly critical of the government in Riyadh.
The three princes — Prince Sultan bin Turki bin Abdulaziz, Prince Turki bin Bandar and Saud bin Saif al-Nasr — were allegedly kidnapped between September 2015 and February 2016 and taken back to Saudi Arabia.
Turki bin Abdulaziz, the most senior of the missing princes, left the ultraconservative Gulf kingdom for Geneva in 2002 for a medical procedure. He later chose to stay there and started giving statements and interviews critical of the Saudi government.
In 2016, Turki bin Abdulaziz, then in Paris, decided to visit Cairo to meet his father, also a renowned critic of the Saudi monarchy.
The Saudi consulate offered him and his entourage, consisting of 18 people, a private jet. He accepted and the aircraft was flown to Saudi Arabia instead of Egypt.
"There has been no news of Prince Sultan since these events," BBC reports.
As for the rest of his entourage, they were detained in the country and then allowed to travel to their destinations after three days.
Prince Turki bin Bandar used to be a senior police officer whose responsibilities included policing the royal family. Following a family feud, he moved to Paris from where he started sharing his criticism of the Saudi government via social media platforms, most prominently YouTube.
It is believed he was abducted in 2015 from Morocco. Before his disappearance, Turki allegedly gave his friend, Wael al-Khalaf, a book he had written, in which he said: "Dear Wael, these statements are not to be shared unless I am kidnapped or assassinated. I know I will be kidnapped or they will assassinate me. I also know how they abuse my rights and those of the Saudi people."
The third prince, Saud bin Saif al-Nasr, who had been living in Milan, disappeared in a similar way after posting tweets critical of the Saudi government in 2014. However, he went a step further the following year when he publicly backed calls for a coup to topple the late King Salman.
Saif al-Nasr was allegedly taken by the Saudi government as he was about to fly from Milan to Rome to discuss a business deal with a Russian company, which Prince Khaled bin Farhan, a friend of Saif al-Nasr and fellow Saudi dissident, believes was actually a kidnap plot orchestrated by the Saudi government.
The Saudi royal family is notorious for its radical crackdown on dissidents both inside and outside the country. "Saudi Arabia has stepped up arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of peaceful dissident writers and human rights advocates in 2017," Human Rights Watch stated in February, adding courts in the Gulf kingdom have convicted at least 20 prominent activists and dissidents since 2011.