Saudi prince arrested after videos appear to show abuse
In his 16th century political treatise, “The Prince,” the Italian diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli gave this advice to leaders: “If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.”
If he were writing today, he might have added: Don’t make a video of it.
Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed bin Saud bin Abdulaziz, a member of the Saudi royal family, learned Wednesday that social media is a powerful form of vengeance.
He was arrested after video clips in which he appears to be violently abusing people surfaced online. He appears to be the cameraman for at least one of the videos, in which he points a rifle at a man pleading and moaning with pain from a head wound.
“I can’t see, I can’t see,” the man says before he is led out of a house.
Saudi Arabia’s leader, King Salman, ordered the arrest of his 27-year-old nephew “along with all who appeared with him in the heinous clips,” state-run Al Ikhbariya TV reported Thursday.
The royal decree said that none of the accused would be released until a legal judgment was issued against them, and that “any violations or transgressions that take advantage of influence and power” should be reported so that the perpetrators can be punished.
Another series of edited clips were released by Saudi social media personality Ghanem Dusari. In one, an expletive-laden threat is shouted at a driver whose white tunic is bloodied, apparently from a beating.
The man took to Twitter on Wednesday to identify himself as a Yemeni citizen named Senan Jamal and to confirm that he had been beaten by the prince. He called upon Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to help him.
Another clip showed the prince mugging to the camera and waving a revolver, while a man beside him holds up a bottle of whiskey. Alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia, and possessing it is a serious offense.
The videos kicked up a furor on social media, with hundreds of thousands of Saudis tweeting under the hashtags “A prince transgresses on citizens” and “Salman of decisiveness imprisons a prince.”
The clips could not be verified by the Los Angeles Times, but after the arrest activists released footage on social media of police in the capital, Riyadh, leading the prince away in handcuffs and shackles.
The decision to arrest the prince was welcomed by many in Saudi Arabia, and comes at a time when the government is working to revamp the country’s political system and economy. The state has insisted it will combat nepotism, and will pursue those who commit crimes regardless of their social status.
Members of the royal family are given a number of privileges, but can still be punished for breaking the law. Last year, Prince Turki bin Saud Kabir was executed for shooting a man.
The prince’s arrest came after a model named Khulood who was seen this week in a video walking through a village alleyway in a miniskirt and a crop top was tracked down and detained by Saudi police.
She was released Thursday without charge, the Associated Press reported.
The clip, which was widely distributed on social media, brought condemnation from conservatives in the country, where women are bound by law to wear robes and the hijab head scarf. Yet it also spurred comparisons to Melania and Ivanka Trump, who were feted in Saudi Arabia for their choice of couture, which did not include robes or hijabs.
Bulos is a special correspondent.
3:45 p.m.: This article was updated to include details about the videos and political context.
This article was originally published at 7:15 a.m.