Saudi Arabia reportedly arrested 11 princes after they gathered in a royal palace in Riyadh to stage a sit-in protesting the kingdom's anti-austerity measures, which have affected their perks and luxuries.
According to Saudi Attorney General Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb, the princes were protesting against an order that “halted payments by the state to members of the royal family to cover their electricity and water utility bills.”
The princes are being detained at Al-Hayer prison south of the capital, pending trial.
"No one is above the law in Saudi Arabia. Everyone is equal and is treated the same as others," a statement by the attorney general read.
The princes, who had staged a sit-in at the royal palace, were also demanding compensation for the 2016 execution of a cousin who was charged with murder. The attorney general said the princes were arrested for disrupting public peace and order.
The arrests make it clear, if any doubts remained, who pulls the strings in the kingdom. The investigation against the arrested princes is being overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also heading the notorious anti-corruption campaign against members of the royal family.
The arrest is being seen as the latest in a series of moves to weaken the power of the kingdom’s burgeoning royal family.
The state announced the latest cuts recently as the kingdom has introduced reforms that include reducing energy subsidies, value-added tax and cutting some perks to royal family members to try to cope with a drop in crude oil prices.
Bin Salman is also the face of reform in a country that has latched on to rigid laws for so long. He has also announced a rise in pension payments and yearly student allowances.
The crackdown on corruption, which has reportedly cost the kingdom’s economy $100 billion over decades, and the unprecedented raise in taxes will supposedly help free up funds for the proposed and rather aggressive focus on infrastructure and construction of new cities. The relaxation of restrictions on social life is also an attempt to present a more moderate face of the kingdom.
In his mission, bin Salman accelerated his efforts to curb any dissenting voices from the country’s royal family.
The protest comes just days after it emerged that Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s, father, Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz, 86, has reportedly been on a hunger strike since Nov. 10, in protest against the crackdown, which was launched by the crown prince.
Bin Abdulaziz, who is the half brother of King Salman, has lost 10 kilos in one month, according to Middle East Eye. His health has deteriorated so much that "a feeding tube was inserted into him."
In November, Saudi Arabia arrested a dozen royals, businessmen and senior government officials in anti-graft crackdown. They face allegations of money laundering, bribery, extortion and exploiting public office for personal gain.
Banner/Thumbnail: Reuters, Saudi Press Agency/Handout