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Mystery Saudi tweeter claims 'pressure' closed his account

Known as @Mujtahidd, the anonymous account had over 1.7 million followers and become famous for exposing the secrets of Saudi elites
Saudi princess Maha Al-Sudairi failed to settle a £5.5m bill with the Shangri-la Hotel (pictured) in Paris after she took over an entire floor with 60 servants for six months in 2012 (AFP)

A widely followed "whistleblower" who tweeted about the Saudi royal family accused Twitter on Friday of bowing to pressure by suspending his account.

The user, whose account '@mujtahidd' had over 1.7 million followers, told Middle East Eye that Twitter cited the posting of a photocopy of a "private document" belonging to a Saudi princess as the reason for his suspension.

"Regardless of whether I broke the rules or not, why would this alleged contravention only be noticed 10 months after the tweet?" he told MEE.

"I explained to Twitter administrators my high profile as a credible whistleblower from within the circles of power in Saudi Arabia," he said, replying from the email address that was listed with his suspended account.

He did not identify himself, but said he had been leaking information from "within the ruling family" since December 2011.

"I informed Twitter that merely accepting these complaints regarding historical tweets constitutes giving in to pressure," his email said. 

Mujtahidd also said he believed Saudi authorities had appointed a team to dig through his tweets and find anything which might be interpreted as breaking Twitter rules.

"Saudi authorities knew they cannot just ask Twitter administration to terminate my account and therefore sought to do so according to Twitter policies."

Some of the information Mujtahidd leaked was false but at other times it proved to be accurate, such as his report of King Abdullah's death hours before the royal court made an official statement on 23 January.

Abdullah was replaced by his half-brother Salman who named his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as defence chief, head of the royal court and special adviser.

Princess Maha scandal

The tweet the account was suspended over, according to Mujtahidd, included a photocopy of the passport of Maha Al Sudairi, a wife of former Crown Prince, Nayef bin Abdel Aziz.

It was one of several tweets he posted that detailed an embarrassing dispute between the Saudi royal family and a French hotel company who claimed Princess Maha owed them millions of dollars.  

One tweet included a letter written by a French lawyer pleading with the Saudi ambassador in France to persuade King Abdullah to pay a bill of more than 3 million euros acrued by the princess after a 2012 trip to Paris.

Another includes a hotel invoice addressed to the princess for €2,252,522.

Twitter use is widespread in Saudi Arabia, where even King Salman has an account. Official media are tightly controlled, however.

Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based watchdog, last year named Saudi Arabia as one of 19 countries where government agencies are "enemies of the internet" for their censorship and surveillance.

Twitter users had their own theories about what happened to @mujtahidd.

"Closing of mujtahidd's account is not because of his tweets. And for sure if the country knows who he is and who is feeding him the information ... if it wanted it could have stopped mujtahidd from day one," a user wrote.

A copy of an invoice for Saudi Princess Maha Al-Soudairi included in an April 2014 tweet by @Mujtahidd
 
UPDATE: As of Saturday the @Mujtahidd account appears to be active again.