Leading academic and doctor 'detained since November' in Saudi corruption purge

Leading academic and doctor 'detained since November' in Saudi corruption purge
A leading Saudi academic and doctor has been detained since last November following what activists believe to be a political showdown
3 min read
30 January, 2018
The luxury Ritz-Carlton had morphed into a makeshift prison [YouTube]
A leading academic and doctor is being detained in Al-Hair prison in Riyadh, Saudi sources revealed on Monday.

Dr. Walid Fitaihi, the founder and CEO of the International Medical Centre in Jeddah, was reportedly arrested last November and held in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, along with dozens of top Saudi officials, princes and businessmen in a sweeping 'corruption probe'. 

The New Arab could not confirm this independently.

Activists have suggested that the reported arrest of Dr. Fitaihi is linked to the arrest of Adel Fakih, the minister of economy and planning who is related to him by marriage.

Last year, the heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, launched a wide-ranging crackdown on dozens of elites, ostensibly to tackle corruption. Critics say it was also a way of consolidating his grip on power.

Most of those detained have struck monetary settlements to be released.

The suspects - who include high-profile princes and billionaires - have been held at Riyadh's luxurious Ritz Carlton hotel since early November and were reportedly told to hand over assets and cash in exchange for their freedom.

Amongst the detainees was billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who had earlier been released on Saturday – the prince had struck a financial settlement with Saudi authorities to secure his release.

Activists took to social media platforms slamming the decision to transfer Fitaihi to the al-Hair Prison, saying it does not bode well for a country to treat its academics in such a manner. Twitter users ridiculed the idea of corruption issues and called upon his immediate release.

Prominent Saudi writer Jamal Khashoogi tweeted: What has happened to us? How can we arrest the likes of Dr. Walid Fitaihi, how can we justify it?

Twitter account, "Prisoners of Conscience" reported that Dr. Fitaihi was listed on the travel ban several months ago, alongside other well-known advocates and academics.

Tyranny increases domestically, failure internationally – what future awaits us?

Earlier today, Riyadh released all remaining detainees held at the five-star hotel, which served as a makeshift luxury jail the past three months, drawing what appears to be an end to the corruption purge.

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said last week that cash settlements obtained from people detained in Saudi Arabia's purported crackdown on corruption will help to finance a 50 billion royal ($13.3 billion) package to help citizens cope with the rising cost of living. On Tuesday he said up to $100 billion have been collected from the anti-corruption move.

The package was announced by King Salman early this month, said Jadaan, speaking to Al Arabiya television at the World Economic forum in Davos. He said the package would also be financed by money from the state budget.