Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Surveying the 'Brexsh*t'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Pound plunges on Brexit uncertainty

Read more

THE DEBATE

Brexit revolt: Can Theresa May weather the storm?

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Michelle Obama: From Chicago's south side to the White House

Read more

FRENCH CONNECTIONS

France's love/hate relationship with Beaujolais nouveau

Read more

ENCORE!

David LaChapelle: 'Celebrity is replacing religion in these times of turmoil'

Read more

PERSPECTIVE

'Photography is part of our daily lives and we want to reflect that'

Read more

FOCUS

Video: Homophobic attacks on the rise in France

Read more

IN THE PRESS

We're in the Brexs*it! Tabloids react to Theresa May's Brexit plans

Read more

Middle East

Saudi princes protesting utility bills arrested for sit-in

© Fayez Nureldine, AFP | A picture taken on November 5, 2017 shows a man reading Al-Hayat newspaper at a cafe in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-01-07

Eleven Saudi princes face trial after their arrest at a sit-in protesting against having to pay their utility bills, authorities said Sunday, as the monarchy pursues reforms amid hefty debt and high unemployment.

Saudi Arabia’s attorney general said “no one is above the law” after the princes were detained outside a palace in Riyadh, where they had gathered last week to demonstrate against a government decision to stop paying the water and electricity bills of royals.

They also demanded compensation for a death sentence issued against one of their cousins, convicted of murder and executed in 2016, attorney general Saud al-Mojeb said.

They have been charged on “a number of counts” and are being held at the maximum security Al-Hayer prison south of Riyadh, he said.

“A group of 11 princes staged a sit-in at the historic Qasr Al-Hokm palace on Thursday... objecting a recent royal order that halted payments by the state to members of the royal family to cover their electricity and water utility bills,” the attorney general said.

“Despite being informed that their demands are not lawful, the 11 princes refused to leave the area, disrupting public peace and order."

The names of the 11 princes have not been made public.

Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a political and economic shake-up, marked by the sudden appointment of the king’s son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince in June.

Prince Mohammed, who sidelined his cousin as heir to the throne, has since consolidated his grip on the kingdom’s economy in a meteoric rise in the royal court.

>> Read more: The meteoric rise of Prince Mohammed bin Salman

The recent arrests come amid a string of government spending cuts as Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest producer of oil, pushes to diversify its economy following the 2014 drop in global oil prices. The fall in crude prices has caused a budget deficit estimated at 195 billion riyals ($52 billion, €43.2 billion) in 2018.

The country plans to slash its generous welfare programme and open energy giant Saudi Aramco to partial privatisation.

The measures have been linked to rising tension within the royal Al-Saud family which counts thousands of members only a handful of whom wield direct influence over the kingdom.

The economic overhaul has been linked to the arrest of more than 200 princes in an anti-corruption purge in November spearheaded by Prince Mohammed.

Most of those detained were held at the palatial Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, which has turned into a luxury prison. Some have since reached settlements with the government.

On January 1, Saudi Arabia also hiked gasoline and fuel prices and imposed a five percent value-added tax on most goods and services, ending its decades-long tax-free policy.

The Gulf kingdom has also intensified efforts to boost employment of its own citizens. Most working Saudis are employed by the state.

King Salman on Saturday announced a string of benefits for Saudi citizens, particularly students, military personnel and public servants, to “soften the impact of the economic reforms” in the coming year.

Saudi Arabia’s information minister on Sunday said the handouts would cost the government up to 80 billion riyals ($13.3 billion, €11 billion) in 2018.

The unemployment rate among Saudis aged 15 to 24 stood at 32.6 percent last year, according to the International Labour Organization.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2018-01-07

  • SAUDI ARABIA

    Saudi Arabia lifts ban on cinemas

    Read more

  • SAUDI ARABIA

    Dozens more Saudis detained in $100 billion corruption sweep

    Read more

  • SAUDI ARABIA

    The meteoric rise of Prince Mohammed bin Salman

    Read more

COMMENT(S)