Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has already raised fresh questions about the integrity of his government by conducting what many Saudis consider an illicit war in Yemen against rebels and launching an unprecedented oil price raid. Now, The New York Times is reporting that his father, former Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, tried to lure his elder daughter into a clandestine meeting at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi officials then allegedly bought her out for $125 million and immediately detained her, as well as former King Abdulaziz bin Saud’s daughters, Jawaher and Fatima.
The two Saudi women were detained at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Istanbul last month in what the government said was an attempt to get them to testify against Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was murdered in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate last October, The New York Times reported. Khashoggi was reported killed by a 15-man hit squad after telling associates that he had been lured to Istanbul by officials who wanted to detain him.
The younger Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who had a different husband, was not part of the 15-man hit squad. She said the real purpose of the transfer to Istanbul was to get her to testify against her father. Saudi officials — including the crown prince — presented two explanations for what had occurred in the killing. One, that it was a rogue operation, and the other, that the operation was sanctioned by all the country’s leadership, and several members of Congress and members of Trump’s administration have publicly supported the kingdom’s version of events.
Fatima and Jawaher have not been heard from since the transfer to Istanbul on December 13. Their children, Katherine and Hussein, have already returned to their home in Riyadh. Abdullah was driven to his home at the heart of a Saudi security compound where he said Saudi authorities planned to keep him and his family as political prisoners for years.
In an interview with the Times, Abdullah’s younger daughter said her father became increasingly paranoid and distant after she and her siblings felt pressured to testify against their father. Abdullah accused her of supporting a U.S. initiative to support the rebels in Yemen, while she said his suspicions stemmed from financial issues. The reason the three women were transferred to Istanbul was not disclosed.
Abdullah has been stripped of the title of crown prince, detained, and had nearly his entire security staff deposed. His wife is reportedly alive. The whereabouts of all the Saudi women are unknown.