Saudi journalist and writer Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jasser has died after being tortured while in prison, New Khaleej reported on November 4th.
The news outlet cited human rights sources, claiming that Al-Jasser was arrested and tortured to death after Saudi authorities claimed he administered the Twitter account Kashkool, which disclosed rights violations committed by the Saudi authorities and royal family.
According to the sources, Saudi authorities used moles in Twitter’s offices in Dubai to identify the journalist as the account’s administrator.
🔴 Authorities believe that the writer Turki bin Abdul Aziz al-Jasser (TurkialjasserJ) is the Twitterati KASHKOOL (coluche_ar), private #Saudi security sources asserted to us. The source confirmed what ALQST tweeted about using personal information in Jasser's PC to blackmail him pic.twitter.com/qkNmZe0e2w
— Prisoners of Conscie (@m3takl_en) March 18, 2018
These Twitter moles are considered part of an alleged “Saudi Cyber Army,” established by Saud Al-Qahtani, a former aide of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In a tweet, Al-Qahtani has said that the fake names on Twitter would not protect those behind the accounts from the Saudi authorities.
This also comes following reports by the NYT on October 21st that Saudi Arabia has an alleged “army of Twitter trolls” that is targeting critics such as the murdered Jamal Khashoggi.
Starting from November 4th 2017 , the Crown Prince began a crackdown on “corruption”. A number of prominent members of the royal family, government ministers and businessmen were arrested. The detainees were confined at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh
In January 2018 it was reported that the anti-corruption campaign, which is still shrouded in secrecy and intrigue, has netted more than $106 billion in financial settlements with 56 people remaining in custody.
Saudi Attorney General Saud al-Mojeb said the settlements reached include seizure of real estate assets, commercial entities, securities and cash. Al-Mojeb said a total of 381 people had been questioned in connection with the campaign.
Among those detained and subsequently released after reaching a deal was billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is chairman of Kingdom Holding and has investments in major Western firms such as Twitter, Apple, Lyft and Citigroup. He had been detained for more than 80 days at the hotel. As reported by NBC News, all of the arrested high-profile figures were held, questioned and pressured into forfeiting significant financial assets in exchange for their release.
Critics say the crown prince has used the purge against high-level individuals to wrangle control of key Saudi companies, sideline potential rivals and silence critics alarmed by his rapid rise to power as he prepares to inherit the throne from his father, King Salman.
Saudi authorities, however, claim that the campaign is aimed at “improving the Kingdom’s business environment.” The recovered sums would allegedly be used to fund a cash assistance program for middle and lower-income citizens estimated to cost $8.5 billion in 2018.
The international community, which showed such apparent condemnation of the murder of Khashoggi has kept quiet regarding the “corruption crackdown,” as well as the recent death of Al-Jasser.
Saudi Arabia has come out largely unscathed from the scandal. On November 6th, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey has “certain evidence” in relation to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that it has not released to the public, and it will do so once its investigation concludes.
It is yet unclear what the evidence is and if it will have any impact on the US and UK support of the Kingdom, however it is unlikely.
It is also interesting to note that mainstream media reports suggest that approximately 500 people were detained as a result of the crackdown on corruption. According to the Saudi Attorney General 381 people were questione. There is no actual mention of the supposed other nearly 120 people who were arrested. Were they released, questioned, tortured? Did they get into a fight that accidentally led to their death? There are really no questions regarding the exact number, mostly because it happened within Saudi Arabia.
The recent murders and the crackdown on corruption also makes something apparent. If an “enemy of the Crown” does not posses enough assets to buy his life back, such was the case with Khashoggi and Al-Jasser, only one fate awaits him.
The Khashoggi case got such a wide a response because it happened in another country, Turkey turned it into an international scandal. If it happened within Saudi Arabia, similar to the corruption crackdown and Al-Jasser it is doubtful that it would cause such a media whirlpool.