Exiled Saudi dissidents: hunted by Riyadh like Khashoggi
In the last year at least three cases similar to that of the journalist and intellectual who died at the consulate in Istanbul. From Canada to the United States, to Australia, emissaries of the kingdom approached dissidents trying to lure them into local diplomatic representations. Since the ascent to the throne of bin Salman the demands for political asylum of Saudis abroad more than doubled.
Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The murder of journalist and intellectual Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, has sown panic and tension among exiled dissidents, who have left the kingdom to escape the purges of the Royal house. In recent times many have reported "discrete" attempts by the government to "lure them" into the embassies of the various countries. A "trap" to stop them and repatriate them in great secrecy.
Saudi Leaders and intellectuals in exile in at least three different nations have reported an apparent attempt by royal officials to lure them into local diplomatic representations. Their fate, according to the majority, would have been similar to that of Khashoggi, killed [in spite of official denials] on the orders of the highest authorities in Riyadh.
Those dissidents targeted include the 27 year-old Omar Abdulaziz, exiled in Canada: he reports that at the beginning of the year, he was approached by Saudi agents who ordered him to follow them inside the embassy to do some paperwork related to his passport. "They told me - remember - it will only take an hour, you just have to follow us to the embassy".
Abdulaziz, in the sights of Riyadh for some satirical shows on the monarchy, refused fearing a trap. In the same days two of his brothers and some friends who have remained in Saudi Arabia were arrested.
Then there is the case of Abdullah Alaoudh, a scholar at Georgetown University, who revealed that he was approached in a similar “ploy” last year in Washington. Alaoudh, son of the Islamic preacher Salman al-Awd under arrest and trial in Saudi Arabia, had applied for a passport renewal at the embassy. The officials responded by inviting him to return to the country of origin to carry out some "formalities". "They offered me a temporary pass - he remembers - that would have allowed me to return to Saudi Arabia". However, he adds, "I knew it was a trap and I left with an expired passport ".
The stories seem to confirm a growing trend in Saudi Arabia, where the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Mbs) has targeted critics and dissidents, with the aim of silencing them. Anonymous sources reveal a government plan aimed precisely at the repatriation of all critical and dissident voices into the realm.
Among them Manal al-Sharif, a women's rights activist who fled to Australia. She says she had just missed a seizure attempt in September last year when Saud al-Qahtani - an influential voice in the royal family - tried to drag her into the embassy. "Without God's providential intervention - she underlines - I would have been another victim".
According to the latest data, the number of asylum seekers and political refugees who have left Saudi Arabia has more than doubled from the ascent to the throne of Mbs. As confirmed by a report by the UN refugee agency, from 575 cases in 2015, it passed to 1256 in 2017.