Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has reportedly charged a prominent economist, who once strongly criticized the crown prince’s economic plans, with “terrorism.”
Essam al-Zamil was charged with a range of accusations, including membership of a terrorist organization, communicating with neighboring Qatar, and inciting protests inside Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported on Monday, citing Saudi outlets and activists.
His identity was not mentioned in the reports. Rather, it was disclosed by a personal friend, London-based Saudi rights group ALQST and a network of activists.
Local media, including Arabic-language newspaper Okaz, referred to the organization as the transnational Muslim Brotherhood movement founded in Egypt, which has been banned both in Saudi Arabia and the Riyadh-friendly North African country.
Zamil was detained late last year. His arrest came after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman remarkably stepped up the kingdom’s purge of intellectuals and clerics, and began rounding up the businessmen and royals, whom he considered menacing to his power.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gestures during his meeting with the Emir of Kuwait at the Bayan Palace in Kuwait City in this handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on September 30, 2018. (Via AFP)
The economist had leveled strong criticism against the centerpiece of Salman’s economic reform plan, namely the public listing of five percent of Saudi oil giant Aramco’s shares.
The prince announced plans for the sale last year in a deal he hoped would raise $100 billion if the company was valued at $2 trillion.
Right before his arrest, Zamil had said that if the company was to be valued at that rate, the authorities had to include its oil reserves in the sale too.
The Saudi economy has been suffering heavily from falling oil prices. The kingdom is accused of intentionally glutting the crude market to lower the price and hurt fellow crude heavyweight Iran.
The Initial Public Offering (IPO) plan centering on Aramco, which is meant to jumpstart the economy has, however, created concerns that Riyadh was relinquishing its crown jewels to foreigners cheaply.
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