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Saudi crown prince served US court summons via WhatsApp

Mohammed bin Salman and nine other officials receive summonses on WhatsApp, court documents show
MBS is accused of sending a 50-person kill team to Canada
Mohammed bin Salman is accused of sending 50-person kill team to Canada to assassinate former Saudi intel official (AFP/File photo)
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Washington

New documents filed to a US federal court show that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was last month issued a summons via WhatsApp to face charges of torture and directing an assassination attempt against a former Saudi security adviser.

The court also sent summonses to nine other Saudi officials - including Badr al-Asaker, Saud al-Qahtani, and Ahmed Asiri - via WhatsApp, according to court documents.

Thomas Musters, a computer forensics investigator, confirmed in an affidavit filed to the court on Thursday that the docket was successfully delivered on WhatsApp on 22 September, and 20 minutes later confirmed as read by MBS's phone by the presence of the two blue check marks read receipt.

"I was able to confirm that the Service Package and the Service Messages were delivered to each Alternative Service Defendant via WhatsApp, meaning that the message was successfully delivered to the recipient's phone," he said.

Physical copies of the summons were also delivered to the individuals at Saudi Arabia's MiSK foundation, and Musters confirmed through shipment tracking that they had been received.

A screenshot of a summons delivered to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia via WhatsApp (
A screenshot of a summons delivered to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia via WhatsApp (District Court for District of Columbia)

It is alleged that MBS used spyware to hack into the WhatsApp account of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, as well as that of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered by Saudi agents inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

In the lawsuit, Saad al-Jabri, a former security adviser, accuses MBS of sending a 50-person kill team, known as the Tiger Squad, to Canada to "eliminate him"; ultimately the operation failed when the Saudis were denied entry at the border.

Jabri claims the assassination attempt took place days after Khashoggi's murder. He currently lives under increased protection, guarded by police and private security guards.

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Several intelligence agencies, including the CIA, have concluded that MBS ordered Khashoggi's killing - an accusation Riyadh has denied. Saudi authorities have claimed the officers responsible had gone rogue, and that the crown prince had no prior knowledge of the killing.

Jabri had been a key go-between for Western spy agencies under former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was ousted by MBS, his younger cousin, in a palace coup in 2017.

The lawsuit alleges that Jabri's knowledge of the royal family and the Saudi court system make him a perceived threat to the kingdom.

Since Jabri fled Saudi Arabia, Riyadh has issued Interpol red notices seeking his return - which have since been dismissed by the agency as political - and urged other countries to send him back to the kingdom, accusing the former intelligence officer of corruption.

The lawsuit asserts that MBS ordered the detention of two of al-Jabri's children, who have gone missing from their home in the capital, Riyadh, while other relatives have also been arrested and tortured "all in an effort to bait Dr Saad back to Saudi Arabia to be killed".

In March, Jabri's two adult children - who had been barred from leaving the kingdom - were arrested at their Riyadh home. In May, Jabri's brother was also arrested. None have contacted their relatives, according to Jabri's son, Khalid, who is based in Canada.