Saudi princes arrested over palace protest

Saudi princes arrested over palace protest

Saudi princes arrested over palace protest

"A group of 11 princes staged a sit-in at the historic Qasr Al-Hokm palace on Thursday... objecting a recent royal order that halted payments by the state to members of the royal family to cover their electricity and water utility bills", the attorney general said. It said the men were being held in prison on charges of disturbing public peace and order.

The princes were arrested after refusing to leave the royal palace in Riyadh.

The arrests were ordered by the newly established anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia a year ago rounded up dozens of royal family members, current and former senior officials in the crackdown on corruption that has also strengthened the power of the heir to the Saudi throne, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The country plans to slash its generous welfare program and open energy giant Saudi Aramco to partial privatization.

The Saudi royal family is thought to number thousands, but the wealth and status between them can vary wildly.

Officials said the arrests were part of a determined effort to root out corruption, but the unprecedented sweep also threatened to upend the kingdom's delicate and decades-old balance of power, analysts said.

They have been held at the five-star Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh while government officials negotiate financial settlements, asking them to hand over assets and cash in return for their freedom. Besides cutting the aforementioned benefits for members of the royal family, the austerity program has also included doubling domestic gasoline prices and levying new taxes on most goods and services. Most working Saudis are employed by the state.

Offsetting some of these measures, King Salman stepped in, saying students, government employees and military personnel would receive cost-of-living allowances, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

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