Saudi authorities have detained 11 princes after they protested at royal palace in Riyad against austerity measures including having to pay their own utility bills.
Saudi Arabia has introduced reforms including cutting subsidies, introducing value added tax (VAT) and cutting perks to royal family members in a bid to deal with a huge budget deficit caused by falling oil prices.
The princes had gathered on Thursday at Qasr al-Hokm palace demanding the cancellation of a recent decree that halted state payment of water and electricity bills for royal family members and seeking compensation for a death sentence implemented in 2016 against one of their cousins, Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir.
Part of the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh was converted into a prison for royals and officials rounded up as part of a crack-down on corruption
Footage emerged of the detained royals sleeping on the floor of the hotel
‘Despite being informed that their demands are not lawful, the 11 princes refused to leave the area, disrupting public peace and order. Members of the security services stepped in to restore order and the princes were arrested,’ the public prosecutor’s statement said, without identifying the princes.
‘Following their arrest, they have been charged on a number of counts in relation to these offences. They are detained at Al-Hayer prison south of the capital pending their trial.’
News website Sabq earlier identified the leader of the group of princes by the initials SAS.
The Saud al-Kabir branch of the House of Saud descends from a cousin of the late King Abdulaziz, who founded the modern kingdom.
The meteoric rise of 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s favoured son, and his ambitious, sometimes aggressive, policies have caused rare tensions within the royal family, which for decades favoured rule by consensus.
Dozens of princes, high officials and senior businessmen were rounded up in November in a crackdown on graft that has boosted Mohammed’s power.
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.
The round up followed a meticulously planned palace coup in June through which Mohammed ousted his elder cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as heir to the throne.