Saudi Arabia is stamping out traces of internal dissent in a far-reaching campaign targeting influential clerics, liberal thinkers and even princes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman moves to consolidate power ahead of his expected accession to the throne, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“In the past week, Saudi authorities have detained more than 30 people, roughly half of them clerics, according to activists and people close to those who have been detained. The campaign goes beyond many of the government’s past clampdowns, both in the scope of those targeted and the intense monitoring of social media posts by prominent figures. It is not known if any charges have been filed,” the newspaper said.
Saudi officials didn’t comment about the crackdown, the report added.
The detentions are seen by some Saudi and Western observers as part of a wider effort by Prince Mohammed to shore up control over the kingdom, the report said.
“In recent months, the government has also barred several senior princes from traveling abroad, according to several people close to the royal family. They include a brother of King Salman. The princes were unreachable for comment,” the newspaper observed.
“Prince Mohammed leapfrogged an older cousin in June to become first in line to succeed King Salman, his octogenarian father. Prince Mohammed has become the country’s de facto day-to-day ruler.”
King Salman is planning to abdicate in his son’s favor, say people close to the royal court. But the timing isn’t clear, the newspaper said.
The Saudi government is in denial mode about the abdication, but people close to the royal family say that the process has started and the transfer of power may be expected to occur this month (September), the report said.
“Most of the people detained in the past week have two things in common: They have a large social media following and haven’t supported the Saudi government in its monthslong dispute with neighboring Qatar. Many are close to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement,”, the report said.