Top MbS aide Saud al-Qahtani 'personally oversaw' brutal torture of Saudi female activists

Top MbS aide Saud al-Qahtani 'personally oversaw' brutal torture of Saudi female activists
The Saudi activists, including women, faced sexual harassment and torture during interrogation and were electrocuted and flogged until they were unable to stand or walk.
3 min read
06 December, 2018
Qahtani has been linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. [Getty]

Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, personally oversaw the torture of at least one detained female activist earlier this year, according to Reuters.

Amnesty International said last month that Saudi activists, including women, had faced sexual harassment and torture during interrogation after being detained by authorities.

The activists, held since May in Dhahban prison on the western Red Sea coast, have faced repeated electrocution and flogging, leaving some of them unable to stand or walk, the rights group said.

At least one activist was made to hang from a ceiling and another detained woman was sexually harassed by interrogators wearing face masks.

Three sources briefed on the activists' treatment told Reuters that a group of around six men distinct from regular interrogators were present during the beatings.

The men said they were from the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, which Qahtani headed at the time, or from state security.

Qahtani was in the room when one of the four detained activists was subjected to kissing, groping and electrocution, the sources said.

He also personally made rape and murder threats to the woman, they added, noting that all of the women's tormentors were from Qahtani's "group".

Qahtani also addressed several of the women in May when they were transferred to Jeddah from Riyadh, telling them the penalty for treason was 20 years in jail or death, the sources said.

Qahtani 'ran Khashoggi killing'

More than a dozen activists were arrested in May - just before the historic lifting of a decades-long ban on women drivers the following month.

Many of them were accused of undermining security and aiding enemies of the state. Some were subsequently released.

Dubbed the "Saudi Steve Bannon", Qahtani was a brutal media enforcer for Mohammed bin Salman, masterminding the arrest of hundreds of the country's elite and orchestrating the detention of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

He was a royal adviser to Mohamed bin Salman until he was sacked in October, a move that was widely seen as an attempt to scapegoat Saudi officials and cover up Prince Mohammed's likely role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

According to intelligence sources, Qahtani ran the brutal killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate via Skype.

A Turkish intelligence source said in October that Qahtani told his men to dispose of Khashoggi. "Bring me the head of the dog", the Turkish intelligence source says Qahtani instructed.

Around 11 messages were sent between Qahtani and the crown prince roughly at the time of the journalist's brutal murder, according to the CIA.

On Wednesday, a Turkish prosecutor has demanded that arrest warrants be issued for Qahtani and Ahmad al-Assiri, who he described as being "among the planners" of Khashoggi's murder.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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