France issues arrest warrant for Saudi crown prince's sister over workman attack

Jacques Demarthon, AFP | A picture taken on October 8, 2012, in Paris shows a street sign of Avenue Foch in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.

The sister of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the target of a French arrest warrant for allegedly ordering her bodyguard to beat up a worker at her Paris apartment, legal sources said Thursday.


The warrant against Princess Hassa bint Salman, issued in late December, follows an alleged assault at her apartment on the ultra-expensive Avenue Foch in west Paris in September 2016, sources close to the case told AFP.

The case could complicate Macron’s efforts to build up a good relationship with Prince Mohammed, one of the most powerful leaders in the Middle East, who is due to visit Paris in the coming weeks.

The workman says he was hired to carry out some refurbishment at Princess Hassa’s apartment and she became angry after he took a photograph of the room where the work was to be done.

He alleges the princess, said to be in her 40s, ordered the bodyguard to beat him, accusing him of taking pictures to sell to the media.

Le Point magazine reported that the princess shouted, ‘Kill him, the dog, he doesn’t deserve to live.”

The workman says he was punched in the face, his hands were tied and he was forced to kiss the princess’s feet during an hours-long ordeal. His tools were confiscated before he was allowed to leave.

AFP reported at the time of the incident that his injuries were so severe that he was ordered off work for eight days.

The bodyguard was charged on October 1, 2016 with armed violence, theft, issuing death threats and holding someone against their will.

The Saudi information ministry did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Awkward timing

Macron held talks with the upstart Prince Mohammed in Riyadh in November and is keen to develop trade ties with the world’s leading crude oil exporter.

Although dates for his trip to Paris have yet to be announced, he will most likely fly in some time after his visit next week to the United States.

Known by his initials MBS, 32-year-old Prince Mohammed has shaken up Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East since he was elevated to crown prince last year.

He has added fuel to the Sunni kingdom’s fierce rivalry with Shia Iran   going so far Thursday as to say that if Tehran developed a nuclear bomb, “we will follow suit as soon as possible”.

And he displayed his clout back in November when he is widely believed to have pressured Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri into a shock resignation.

Macron waded into that crisis, inviting Hariri to Paris for talks. Hariri has since withdrawn his resignation.

Widely regarded as de facto leader under his 82-year-old father King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Prince Mohammed has presented himself as a champion of moderate Islam.

He has declared a liberalisation of ultra-conservative social mores under Wahhabi Islam and moved to modernise the heavily top-down economy.

He has also spearheaded an anti-corruption campaign in which nearly 400 princes, ministers and business moguls were locked up in a deluxe Riyadh hotel and assets worth tens of billions of dollars confiscated.

But his country’s involvement in the war in Yemen has earned heavy criticism in the West, with Macron urging the Saudi king in December to lift a blockade that has strangled supplies to civilians.

His sister Princess Hassa keeps a relatively low profile, but she is lionised in the Saudi media for her charity work and women’s rights campaigning.

Her arrest warrant is not the first time Saudi royalty have had a brush with the law in France.

In 2013 French authorities ordered assets to be seized from Saudi princess Maha al-Sudairi, wife of the then interior minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, over an unpaid luxury hotel tab of nearly six million euros.


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