A Saudi general may have been tortured to death and several wealthy businessmen were allegedly abused in captivity at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent crackdown on powerful figures in Saudi Arabia, according to a newspaper report.
More than 200 businessmen, princes and government officials were detained in November and imprisoned at the luxury hotel in Riyadh in what the Saudi government said was an anti-corruption drive.
According to the New York Times, some of the powerful detainees may have suffered abuse at the hands of their captors as they were coerced into agreements to hand over billions of dollars to the Saudi government in return for their freedom.
Saudi Arabia has dismissed the allegations of abuse as “absolutely untrue”.
The most dramatic accusation involves Major General Ali al-Qahtani, an aide to a senior Saudi prince seen as a potential rival to the 32-year-old Prince Mohammed, who died in government custody in mid-December.
Sources told the newspaper that the general’s “neck was twisted unnaturally as though it had been broken” and that his body had burn marks which appeared to be the result of electric shocks.
General Qahtani was taken to hospital in November but was reportedly returned to his interrogation after being seen by doctors. The government has not offered an official explanation for how he died.
The general’s death had been widely reported in Arab and Iranian media previously but not in detail. The US report comes shortly before Prince Mohammed, known by his initials “MBS”, is due in Washington for meetings with the Trump administration.
General Qahtani was an aide to Prince Turki bin Abdullah, a former governor of Riyadh who is from a rival line of the Saudi royal family to Prince Mohammed. Prince Turki was himself detained during the November crackdown on allegations of corruption. He was eventually released.
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A further 16 detainees were allegedly left in need of medical treatment after their abuse. Some reportedly told family members they had been beaten, deprived of sleep, or interrogated with hoods over their heads.
“All allegations of abuse and torture of those investigated during the anti-corruption proceedings are absolutely untrue,” a Saudi official said.