A man thought to be acting on behalf of the Saudi government tried to kidnap a young social-media influencer on US soil, The Daily Beast reported Thursday, citing multiple sources familiar with the episode.
Abdulrahman Almutairi, 27, lives in California and has used social media to criticise the Saudi government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over brutal slaying of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist assassinated by Saudi agents in Turkey.
The Daily Beast cited unnamed sources as saying said that sometime shortly after Khashoggi’s October 2018 killing an “unidentified Saudi man accompanied Almutairi’s father on a flight to collect Almutairi against his will and bring him back to Saudi Arabia.”
Almutairi told the outlet that if he had been taken back to Saudi Arabia, he most likely would have been killed.
Khashoggi’s gruesome death and dismemberment sparked intense global backlash. He was murdered October 2, 2018, at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul after going there to obtain paperwork for his coming wedding.
US officials and the UN have said Crown Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, most likely ordered the killing, though he has denied doing so.
Khashoggi had frequently criticised the crown prince and the Saudi government in articles for The Washington Post.
Almutairi told The Daily Beast the Saudi government knew he was “a threat” because of his audience on social media.
Two sources told the outlet that only an FBI intervention stopped the plot to kidnap Almutairi. Almutairi’s father and the suspected Saudi agent were apparently denied entry into the country after flying into Los Angeles International Airport. Almutairi said he believed his father was forced to make the trip.
The Saudi crown prince made headlines in the US this week when The Guardian reported that his phone number was believed to have hacked the mobile phone of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos through the encrypted messaging app WhatsApp.
Agnes Callamard and David Kaye – special rapporteurs appointed by the UN – called for an investigation and said the forensic report indicated that a number belonging to Crown Prince Mohammed most likely hacked Bezos’ phone through a malicious video file sent via WhatsApp.
Bezos gave his personal mobile phone number to the crown prince in April 2018, after the two men attended a dinner together in Los Angeles.
Callamard also told The Daily Beast she believed Almutairi’s story was credible.
“There is a pattern of the Saudi authorities, particularly over the last two years, targeting individuals – high-profile people with a big Saudi audience,” Callamard told the outlet, “either because they’re critical of MBS or the government or not just for what they say but what they don’t say, if they’re insufficiently supportive.”
Almutairi would join a growing list of Saudi dissidents targeted by the Saudis over criticism of the kingdom.
Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP; YouTube
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