Eleven Saudi princes detained for protesting over utility bills

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Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi authorities have arrested a group of 11 princes after they gathered at a royal palace in Riyadh in a rare demonstration against the government halted payment of their electricity and water bills, Saudi attorney general reported on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, recently introduced reforms that included cutting subsidies, introducing value added tax (VAT) and a halt to state payments of water and electricity bills for royal family members to try to cope with a drop in crude prices that has caused a budget deficit estimated at 195 billion riyals in 2018.

The princes had gathered on Thursday at the Qasr a-Hokm, a historic royal palace, demanding the cancellation of a royal decree that halted state payment of water and electricity bills for royal family members.

They were also seeking compensation for a death sentence issued in 2016 against one of their cousin, Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabeer.

““Despite being informed that their demands are not lawful, but they refused to leave Qasr al-Hokm,” official said. “A royal order was issued to the royal guards … to intervene and they were detained and put into Al-Hayer prison south of the capital, waiting for their trial.”

It gave no details on the identity of the princes but said the leader of the group had been identified by the initials S.A.S.

The meteoric rise of 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s favored son, and his ambitious, sometimes aggressive, policies have caused rare tensions within the royal family, which for decades favored rule by consensus.

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