Re­ports air Saudi prince’s bru­tal push to quell dis­sent

The Buffalo News - - WORLD NEWS - By Mark Mazzetti and Ben Hub­bard

WASH­ING­TON – Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man of Saudi Arabia au­tho­rized a se­cret campaign to si­lence dis­senters – which in­cluded the surveil­lance, kid­nap­ping, de­ten­tion and tor­ture of Saudi cit­i­zens – more than a year be­fore the killing of Ja­mal Khashoggi, ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials who have read clas­si­fied in­tel­li­gence re­ports about the campaign.

At least some of the clan­des­tine mis­sions were car­ried out by mem­bers of the same team that killed and dis­mem­bered Khashoggi in Is­tan­bul in Oc­to­ber 2018, sug­gest­ing that his killing was a par­tic­u­larly egre­gious part of a wider campaign to si­lence Saudi dis­si­dents, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cials and as­so­ci­ates of some of the Saudi vic­tims.

Mem­bers of the team that killed Khashoggi, which U.S. of­fi­cials called the Saudi Rapid In­ter­ven­tion Group, were in­volved in at least a dozen op­er­a­tions start­ing in 2017, they said.

Some of the op­er­a­tions in­volved forcibly repa­tri­at­ing Saudis from other Arab coun­tries and de­tain­ing and abus­ing pris­on­ers in palaces be­long­ing to the crown prince and his fa­ther, King Sal­man, the of­fi­cials and as­so­ci­ates said.

One of the Saudis de­tained by the group, a univer­sity lec­turer in lin­guis­tics who wrote a blog about women in Saudi Arabia, tried to kill her­self last year after be­ing sub­jected to psy­cho­log­i­cal tor­ture, ac­cord­ing to U.S. in­tel­li­gence re­ports and oth­ers briefed on her sit­u­a­tion.

De­tails about the op­er­a­tions come from U.S. of­fi­cials who have read clas­si­fied in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ments about the Saudi campaign, as well as from Saudis with di­rect knowl­edge of some of the op­er­a­tions. They spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity for fear of reper­cus­sions from dis­clos­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

A spokesman for the Saudi Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton said the king­dom “takes any al­le­ga­tions of ill treat­ment of de­fen­dants await­ing trial or pris­on­ers serv­ing their sen­tences very se­ri­ously.”

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