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Saudi crown prince's top aide Bader al-Asaker believed arrested

Sources tell MEE head of Mohammed bin Salman's personal office has been detained for unknown reasons
Bader al-Asaker heads the crown prince's Misk charitable foundation (Screenshot)

There are strong indications that a top aide of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Bader al-Asaker, has been arrested, sources told Middle East Eye.

Asaker’s whereabouts have been called into question in recent days by Saudi activists, who noted that his social media accounts had fallen quiet.

Translation: Where is Mr Bader al-Asaker?

Soon after speculation began to circulate, Asaker’s Twitter account tweeted on Monday for the first time since 6 May, sharing a video clip of Egyptian thinker Mustafa Mahmoud.

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However, Saudi sources outside the kingdom told MEE that they have been informed Asaker has indeed been detained. They were unclear of the reasons for his apparent arrest, or when it happened.

MEE has asked the Saudi government for comment, without response by the time of publication.

Asaker, head of the crown prince’s office since 2017 and chairman of his charitable foundation, Misk, is known to be one of the de facto Saudi leader’s closest associates.

He courted controversy last year when the US Justice Department accused him of recruiting Twitter employees to collect the personal information of Saudi dissidents and critics.

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One of those targeted was Jamal Khashoggi, the Middle East Eye and Washington Post columnist killed by Saudi operatives in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in 2018.

According to the US complaint, Asaker worked “for and at the direction of” Mohammed bin Salman “with respect to his online presence” on the social media platform.

The crown prince’s aide began recruiting Twitter employees to inform on dissidents as early as 2014, the US Justice Department believed.

As head of Mohammed bin Salman’s office, Asaker has wielded significant influence and power, and his apparent arrest comes as a surprise.

Asaker has 1.7 million Twitter followers, and as secretary-general of Misk is presented as the man responsible for empowering Saudi Arabia’s youth and developing a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Though it was reported in the Turkish media that Maher al-Mutrib, who led the Saudi operatives that murdered Khashoggi, called Asaker four times during that operation, the aide has largely avoided the following investigations and furore.

The CIA and a United Nations investigation, however, concluded that the crown prince almost certainly signed off on the assassination.

Saudi Arabia denies the crown prince was involved in the plot or its botched coverup.

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