Saudi Arabia has released at least 23 of the more than 200 powerful individuals, including princes, politicians and businessmen, who were detained in a so-called anti-corruption purge in November.
Of those still under arrest is Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is considered to be the Gulf kingdom's richest man.
It has now emerged 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 Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (aka MBS).
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."
Although MBS locked up several members of his extended family, in a bid to prosecute individuals over ill-gotten wealth, bin Talal's arrest remains the most controversial of all.
Over the years, bin Talal has been the one and only prominent and progressive member of the ultraconservative Saudi royal family who has worked diligently toward building — mostly financial — ties with the West, especially the United States.
Many believe the crown prince specifically targeted bin Talal because of his influence both in and outside of Saudi Arabia, thereby consolidating his power in the kingdom.
In addition, while many princes arrested in the crackdown have been released following financial settlements, Saudi authorities are allegedly demanding at least $6 billion from bin Talal, who has an estimated net worth of $18.7 billion. It is among the highest figures demanded so far.
Giving away $6 billion to get out of detention, however, would put bin Talal's business empire at risk, which, again, many believe is an attempt by MBS to weaken the financial influence of one of his biggest family rivals.
Unlike other princes who were arrested, bin Talal has reportedly denied all accusations of corruption leveled against him and also refused a settlement with the crown prince.
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