Saudi Arabia urged to come clean on house arrest of bin Nayef

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Saudi royal's last appearance was after Mohammed bin Salman was elevated to the role of crown prince

Mohammed bin Salman (L) replaced his uncle Mohammed bin Nayef (R) in a palace coup back in June (AFP)
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Thursday 27 July 2017 13:32 UTC
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A rights group has demanded the Saudi authorities clarify whether it has imposed movement restrictions on former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef after he was forced to step down in June. 

The call comes amid reports that bin Nayef was under house arrest and banned from leaving the country. 

Human Rights Watch called on Riyadh to clarify whether these reports were true and what legal basis it used to impose its restrictions on the deposed prince. 

“Reports that Mohammad bin Nayef is under a travel ban and home detention without due process are bitterly ironic given his role in imposing similar arbitrary restrictions on thousands of Saudis,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. 

“The Saudi government needs to call a halt to officials’ arbitrary abuses of power.”

The Saudi government needs to call a halt to officials’ arbitrary abuses of power

- Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW

Nayef, who is the nephew of King Salman, also served as the minister of interior during his time as the crown prince and had a reputation for cracking down on activists.

The last time he made a public appearance was after he was ousted from power in a palace coup that saw the son of King Salman, Mohammed bin Salman, elevated to the role of Saudi's crown prince. 

A report in Reuters claimed that Nayef was asked to step down due to his painkiller addiction that reportedy clouded the former crown prince's judgement. However this report was described as "nonsense" by a palace source.

Saudi media outlets showed bin Nayef congratulating his nephew and successor bin Salman after he was appointed. 

A former American official told the New York Times that bin Nayef was confined to his palace. Another official told the Times that he was barred from leaving the country.

The Guardian had also reported that two sources close to the royal family had confirmed that bin Nayef was under house-arrest. 

According to HRW, the Saudi authorities have issued arbitrary travel bans that went against its own laws on royal family members and Saudi citizens.

During bin Nayef's tenure, rights groups documented the use of travel bans and detention of Saudi citizens on numerous occasions. 

In December 2014, for example, authorities banned prominent human rights activist Samar Badawi from travel abroad several months after she went to Geneva to press the UN Human Rights Council to seek the release of her then-husband, Waleed Abu al-Khair, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for his human rights work.

Badawi only discovered her ban after she attempted to board a flight from Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport. The ban remains in effect.