Former Saudi spy chief, Saud al-Qahtani, describes how Prince Mohammed has strong power over the kingdom and that top officials were worried about his growing power
Ex-Saudi intelligence official describes Crown Prince as a ‘psychopath’ who boasted he could kill the sitting monarch in 2014
The former Saudi intelligence chief and close aide to the crown prince, Saud al-Qahtani, has described how the young heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman, is a “psychopath” and has authoritarian tendencies.
“He has the power of a king, the character of a dictator and the moral instincts of a monarch,” al-Qahtani wrote in the Washington Post, where he had posted a statement in his name. “He revels in discrediting anyone who stands in his way. He intimidates by his sheer, utter hatred.”
The writing is the first time al-Qahtani has publicly criticised his former boss, who commands sweeping powers over virtually every facet of Saudi life.
Saud al-Qahtani was jailed over his propaganda ‘pals’ The Saudi Arabia government jailed some senior members of the royal family in November in what it called a purge of corrupt officials, but which led to an avalanche of accusations of wrongdoing. The Guardian
Al-Qahtani was among many royal family members detained for more than four months in a Riyadh hotel in what critics say was a crackdown on dissent.
He was part of the crown prince’s entourage since his 2011 ascension to the largely symbolic role of crown prince, supporting his contentious move to replace the often comical and capricious Salman with a 32-year-old who was little known until this summer.
The political influence of al-Qahtani and the crown prince’s close confidant, Muhammad bin Nayef, who was formerly interior minister, was widely aghast at the crown prince’s elevation. Bin Nayef lost his job in November and is now under house arrest.
The Washington Post published an excerpt of a 17-page statement to the New York Times. It appeared to have been posted for just a couple of hours before being taken down by an angry Saudi government. The Washington Post
Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Tera COHEN/Rex/Shutterstock
Al-Qahtani was sacked after he was named on a travel ban list by the US Treasury in November, and was behind the threat to imprison prominent Saudi journalists, including Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two months later.
The financial sanctions saw $30m frozen from al-Qahtani’s bank accounts.
Al-Qahtani said that he had been arrested, along with 200 of Prince Mohammed’s political, military and social aides, in a purge of so-called graft within the ruling al-Saud family.
“I was still required to serve in his entourage, yet I was now being held hostage in Riyadh. I had no access to food, water or fresh air. My parents and other extended family were not allowed to visit me,” he wrote.
He said that after he was questioned by the security services for two days over his indictment with the Saudis in May 2017, his release was a result of a Saudi request, but not pressure.
“I ask for understanding that I have no more influence than I had before this transfer,” he wrote. “My former life will continue to unravel if I fail to offer perspective.”