International

Saudi ex-spy’s lawsuit makes explosive claims

Saad Aljabri.

Saad Aljabri.   | Photo Credit: -

A former Saudi intelligence czar’s lawsuit in the U.S. courts makes a host of incendiary claims, including that the powerful Crown Prince tried to have him killed, and threatens to spill more royal secrets.

A source close to the Saudi royal court has shrugged off Saad Aljabri’s 107-page lawsuit filed last week, insisting that the former spy chief himself faced serious allegations of corruption.

But the case, lodged after Riyadh detained two of Mr. Aljabri’s adult children without charge, threatens to become a public slanging match that could pull aside the curtain on the kingdom’s Shakespearean power plays.

Silencing critics

The lawsuit marks the first time a former top official has legally challenged Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and, if true, exposes what observers call a violent government campaign to snare overseas rivals and critics. “There is virtually no one (Prince Mohammed) wants dead more than Dr Saad,” the suit said, claiming a hit team was sent after him just two weeks after members of the same squad murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Mr. Aljabri, exiled in Canada, is a former intelligence chief and top aide to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was deposed as heir to the throne by Prince Mohammed in a 2017 palace coup.

Releasing what it says are WhatsApp exchanges with Prince Mohammed, the suit accuses him of strong arm tactics to induce Mr. Aljabri to return to the kingdom after Mr. Nayef’s downfall prompted him to flee. They range from trying to entice Mr. Aljabri with a job offer to an unsuccessful attempt to have him extradited through Interpol, and the detention in March of his two children as a bargaining chip.

Then in October 2018, the suit alleges, the Prince sent “Tiger Squad” assassins armed with forensic tools to kill him in Canada — chillingly similar to the way Khashoggi was targeted in Istanbul.

A senior Saudi official said the government was preparing its response to the lawsuit, while Canada has not denied the claim that it intercepted a Saudi hit squad.

An ally to CIA

Former CIA officials have come out in support of Mr. Aljabri, praising him as a long-time partner in counterterrorism efforts who helped thwart multiple attacks on U.S. interests.

It is unclear how the lawsuit will play out in the United States, where neither Mr. Aljabri nor the Crown Prince is based. But it could still worry Riyadh as it emphasises that Mr. Aljabri possesses “sensitive, humiliating and damning information” on the Crown Prince, including recordings that will be made public if he is killed.

Offering a foretaste of the secrets Mr. Aljabri harbours was an explosive claim buried in the lawsuit — that in 2015, Prince Mohammed secretly encouraged Russia to intervene in the Syrian conflict, a move that infuriated the CIA.

Two months later, Russian forces launched their intervention, effectively eliminating any chance of a military victory for the Syrian opposition, which the kingdom claimed to support.

Neither Moscow nor Riyadh have addressed the claim.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 11:10:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/saudi-ex-spys-lawsuit-makes-explosive-claims/article32359114.ece

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