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Reformist Saudi Prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz dies at 87

Prince Talal long campaigned for Saudi constitutional monarchy and separation of powers
Saudi King Salman kisses the hand of Prince Talal, right, last November when he was in a wheelchair (Sabq)

Saudi Prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz, a half brother of King Salman who had been ailing after being weakened by a hunger strike, died on Saturday at the age of 87, his billionaire son said.

"Prince Talal was called by God on Saturday," Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal wrote on Twitter. The family will receive condolences on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at home in Riyadh, he added.

Prince Talal had been hospitalised in Riyadh, though it was not clear where he died.

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Prince Talal had gone on a hunger strike in protest against a purge carried out by his nephew, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), and the detention of three of his own sons.

He stopped eating last year on 10 November, shortly after his first son, Alwaleed, was arrested  and lost 10 kilos in one month.

Before embarking on his hunger strike, Talal told friends it was right to protest "civilly" to draw attention to the tyranny that MBS was establishing under the cover of an anti-corruption purge, MEE reported.

The prince had long campaigned for a constitutional monarchy and the separation of powers, which he claimed are enshrined in the Saudi constitution.

In an interview with Egyptian Al Mihwar TV in 2007, Prince Talal said: "I have always believed in the separation of powers, the executive, legislative, and judicial authorities."

The 'Red Prince'

Defiantly liberal and dubbed the "Red Prince," Talal was known as a tireless advocate of reform, sometimes in defiance of the royal family, AFP said.

Prince Talal lived in exile abroad in the 1960s, Reuters said, when Saudi authorities revoked his passport after he led a group of princes demanding constitutional reforms and allied himself with then Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, an arch-foe of the Saudi monarchy.

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Prince Talal returned to the kingdom after Faisal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud become king in 1964, and after toning down his rhetoric.

He was a long-standing advocate of allowing Saudi women to drive, a right that was finally granted to female citizens this year.

Born in 1931, the prince headed the Arab Gulf Fund for Development, a UN body that promotes education and health in developing countries.

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