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Saad Aljabri was for years one of the key officials of the Saudi Arabian intelligence apparatus , seasoned in the fight against terrorism and a reliable interlocutor for Western spy agencies. Until his boss, former Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohamed bin Nayef fell out of favor three years ago. Exiled since then in Canada, Saad is now facing threats and pressure from the kingdom: two of his sons and his brother have been arrested and remain unaccounted for .
"They are incommunicado. My father is fine but he faces many threats," Jalid Aljabri, son of the former Saudi official, admits to EL MUNDO from his Canadian refuge. Omar and Sarah, 21 and 20 years old, respectively - Saad's only two children who remained in Riyadh - were arrested on March 16 in a raid on their home. Since June 2017, when the brilliant rise of Mohamed bin Salman removed Bin Nayef from the succession , they had been prohibited from leaving the country and their bank accounts had been frozen. Last week, a third relative - Abadrahrahman, Saad's brother - joined the list of those arrested.
Saad, the umpteenth victim of Bin Salman in his career to the throne and his studied plan to divest himself of potential rivals, was one of Bin Nayef's closest advisers in the fight against Al Qaeda or the protection of the country's oil exploitations. Linguist and computer scientist with a doctorate in artificial intelligence, he has the rank of general and went on to hold a ministerial position. In September 2015, after holding a meeting in Washington with the then CIA director John Brennan of which Bin Salman had not been informed, he was dismissed by royal decree, reached by the confrontation that was already being waged by the thirty-year-old and his cousin Bin Nayef .
Saad was outside Saudi Arabia when in June 2017 a palatial coup carefully hatched by King Salman and his son defeated Bin Nayef , who has since remained under house arrest. The official, aware of the risks, chose not to return home.
"Saad was for years one of the most important security agents in the kingdom," Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official who now heads and deals with the Brookings Intelligence Project, tells this newspaper.
"Saad is a veritable archive of information on the royal family. The crown prince has made many enemies within his own family and Saad is emerging as a potential leader of the Saudis outside the kingdom and demanding change at home," Riedel adds. After four decades in the secrets of the interior ministry and its vast intelligence apparatus, Saad keeps a precious arsenal of information about the vast Saudi royal family , from the secrets associated with possible cases of corruption and other crimes to their most uncomfortable intimacies.
Family sources acknowledge this newspaper that, since he began his exile, Saad has faced a growing campaign of intimidation to return to the kingdom , with the same methods that other rebel and dissident princes have suffered. Despite his connections to US intelligence, the official preferred to establish his residence and that of his family in Canada under the protection of the authorities of the North American country. Some attribute this decision to the personal connections that Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have made with Bin Salman.
THE EXAMPLE OF JAMAL KHASHOGGI
The horrifying murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, the cyber espionage suffered by dozens of opponents or the kidnappings suffered by several princes on European soil have only served to reaffirm Saad's fears. The Saudi authorities have not opened any judicial proceedings against him.
For three years, Saad has kept a low profile. Its only trace of public activity is dated September 2017, in an analysis published by an American think tank about Saudi-Iran rivalries and Bin Salman's new vision. "The new Saudi leadership calls on the entire world to ostracize Iran until it changes course and supports the kingdom while facing this reality. Like all Saudis, Bin Salman hopes and prays for the best as he prepares to adopt a firm stand against the worst . It is up to the international community to follow suit, "Saad then outlined.
The public complaint of his family about the pressures he receives coincides this Friday with the public forgiveness that Salah Khashoggi, one of the sons of the murdered journalist, has given to the authors of his father's death coinciding with the end of the Muslim holy month. Ramadan. "We, the sons of the martyr Jamal Khashoggi, announce that we forgive those who killed our father," Salah said in a Twitter message, paving the way for a pardon.
Last December, the Saudi justice system issued five capital sentences for the reporter's crime, once an appreciated and loyal figure in the corridors of the court. The verdict of a process marked by the absolute lack of transparency and the absence of persecution of the high officials of the kingdom involved was widely criticized by human rights organizations. A rejection that has occurred again this Friday.
"Although shocking, the announcement was expected," said Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur for summary executions and extrajudicial killings who signed the investigation into the crime, in a statement sent to this newspaper.
"The Saudi authorities are representing what they hope will be the final act in their well-rehearsed judicial parody in front of an international community too ready to be deceived," he added, demanding - again - an independent investigation into a murder he continues to have in the fate of the corpse and the responsibility of Bin Salman for his main questions . The rejection of family forgiveness has also been supported by the journalist's fiancé, Turkish Hatice Cengiz. "No one has the right to forgive the murderers. We will not forgive either the murderers or those who ordered their crime," he warned.
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