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Purge in Riyadh: Ex-Saudi public security chief jailed for 25 years over ‘corruption’

Former head of Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Public Security, Lieutenant General Khaled bin Qarar al-Harbi (Photo via Twitter)

Saudi Arabia’s former public security chief has been sentenced to 25 years in prison over alleged "corruption charges" amid Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ongoing witch-hunt against dissidents, opponents, and potential rivals to the throne.

The Prisoners of Conscience, an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page on Wednesday that Lieutenant General Khaled bin Qarar al-Harbi was handed the jail term over charges of bribery and abuse of power.

Harbi had served as the head of Saudi Arabia's General Directorate of Public Security since December 2018.

He was dismissed from his position and arrested in September last year after King Salman bin Abdulaziz issued a royal decree and referred him for investigation on corruption charges, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

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The accusations, according to SPA, include “seizing public money for personal benefit... forgery, bribery and abuse of power.”

The decree had stipulated that “the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority [Nazaha] shall complete the investigation procedures with everyone involved in this [case], and take the necessary legal measures against them.”

Ever since bin Salman rose to become Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested a number of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and others seen as political opponents despite international outcry and condemnation of the crackdown.

In what is viewed as the biggest purge in the kingdom's history, Saudi royals, billionaires and senior government officials were tortured and blackmailed in November 2017, when they were rounded up and detained at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in an extraordinary power play by bin Salman.

As many as 500 people were rounded up in the purge, which continued until 2019. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Saudi government targeted cash and assets worth up to $800 billion.

The purge was believed to be meant to consolidate the then-nascent rule of bin Salman.

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Former detainees and associates of several people caught up in the crackdown have said the detentions were arbitrary, lacking in any judicial process and frequently targeted foes of the prince.

British daily newspaper the Guardian, citing a source, said the November 2017 round-up at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh “was about consolidating his (bin Salman) rule, plain and simple” and came before the cruel murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.

“The fact that he got away with it allowed him to do the latter. The same guards involved in the Ritz were involved in the killing,” the source said.

Most were later released after reaching unspecified financial settlements with the authorities.

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