Former Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was told that his female family members would be raped if he refused to make way for rival Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) during the infamous Saudi Palace coup of 2017, a new report has claimed.
In a shock move at the time, King Salman promoted MBS as the heir to the Saudi throne after a suspected power struggle between MBS and Nayef – who are cousins.
Since then, Nayef is reported to have spent various spells in detention and under house arrest. Reports suggest that more than five years after MBS staged his coup, Nayef is still being held in detention, although it is unclear exactly where.
Now, new claims have emerged about Nayef’s alleged treatment at the hands of the Saudi regime, with sources close to the Prince reportedly saying he was told if he did not give up his claim to the throne, his female family members would be raped – and that he was strung up by the ankles while being held in solitary confinement.
Former Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (pictured addressing the United Nations in 2016) was told that his female family members would be raped if he refused to make way for rival Mohammed bin Salman, according to a new report
The claims add to the concerns about MBS, who has since taken measures to consolidate his power as the de-facto ruthless ruler of the oil-right state.
Information on the Saudi Royal Family is closely guarded by the autocratic state, but the story of the 2017 coup and claims about the subsequent detention of Nayef are now widely in the public domain.
Nayef, a close ally of the US intelligence services, was forced to step down as the Saudi Crown Prince on June 20, 2017. The incident has been likened to the ‘Godfather, Saudi-style’, according to a new report from The Guardian.
That day, the newspaper reports Nayef was called to a meeting in King Salman’s vast palace in Mecca. His security detail were instructed to wait outside, and all mobile phones were confiscated for ‘security reasons’, the newspaper reported a source as saying.
Prince Nayef was ushered into a room, where he was held for hours by Turki al-Sheikh – a close ally to MBS – who worked to pressure Nayef into signing a resignation letter and to pledge allegiance to his cousin.
He initially refused, but bowed to pressure after threats were made against his family. One threat, a source told The Guardian, was that members of his family that were women would be raped.
His medication for hypertension and diabetes was also withheld, the report claims, and he was told that he would soon be hospitalised if he did not cooporate.
By the following morning, he caved in to the pressure. He was made to step into another room, where MBS was waiting with television cameras – and an armed guard. Footage, barely 20-seconds long and released by Saudi broadcasters, gave a brief glimpse into the meeting.
In a shock move in 2017, King Salman (pictured right in 2018) promoted Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to the heir to the Saudi throne after a suspected power struggle between MBS and Nayef – who are cousins
Pictured: MBS kisses the hand of former-Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in a theatrical video which showed Nayef pledging his allegiance to MBS as Crown Prince
Who is Prince Mohammed bin Nayef?
Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was previously a very powerful figure in Saudi Arabia.
A nephew of King Salman, he was previously the crown prince of the country between 2015 and 2017, until he was stripped of the title by the king.
His role as crown prince had made him first in line to the throne, but he was replaced by Mohammed bin Salman, who ordered his arrest.
The prince had also served as minister of the interior and had headed up the country’s counter terrorism efforts.
But his dramatic downfall in 2017 saw him stripped of all his roles.
It was claimed at the time that he was stripped of his status as crown prince because he was addicted to pain killing drugs.
The prince went to school in the US and went on to develop a close relationship with American officials, becoming known as the ‘prince of counter terrorism’.
He led Saudi Arabia’s war on Al Qaeda and in 2017 was awarded a medal by the CIA, honouring him for his alleged contributions to counter-terrorism.
It showed MBS enthusiastically kissing Nayef’s hands. Sheikh places a gold-lined robe over Nayef’s sholders. In a text to his adviser Saad Aljabri, according to The Guardian, Nayef said: ‘When I pledged allegiance, there was a gun to my back.’
Following the coup, Saudi Arabia claimed Nayef had been ousted because of an addiction to morphine and cocaine – but it came after months of ill feeling between the cousins, and careful planning by MBS.
The former Crown Prince was placed under house arrest, and he told his advisor Aljabri – who was out of the country at the time – not to return. Aljabri fled to Canada, where he was the target of an alleged assassination plot by Saudi Arabia’s ‘Tiger Squad’ – who were turned away at the border.
Later in 2017, the conditions of his house arrest were eased, but he was still banned from leaving the country.
In 2018 and 2019, he was permitted relative freedom. He was allowed to go hunting in the country, and made appearances at royal weddings and funerals.
But in March 2020, Nayef’s fortunes turned again. Officials raided his desert retreat near Riyadh, and he was placed under detention – along with several of his staff.
The Guardian reports that he was placed in solitary confinement, and – according to a Europe-based source – was ‘seriously mistreated’.
The source reportedly alleged that the former Crown Prince was strung up by his ankles and tortured – causing ‘long-lasting damage to his lower legs and ankles’. It is now painful for him to talk, they said, and he lost ‘a significant amount’ of weight.
The same source told the newspaper that towards the end of 2020, Nayef was moved again – this time to the Yamamah palace complex in Riyadh – King Salman’s official residence. Nayef is watched at all times by CCTV cameras, and is not allowed to leave a small unit in the building.
It is claimed that Nayef was ambushed at a meeting in one of the vast buildings overlooking Mecca (pictured), where he was pressured into giving up his position as Crown Prince
MBS (pictured in 2019) has sought to cultivate his image after the 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by a Saudi hit-squad inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and the destructive Saudi-led war in Yemen
In 2021, Nayef’s bankers and lawyers in Europe are reported to have recieved money transfer requests. While his assets in his home country were seized, Nayef is believed to own billions of pounds worth of property abroad.
The bankers and lawyers ignored and refused the requests, believing Nayef had been placed under duress to make them. Bankers in Switzerland said they would only approve the request if he made them in person.
The source told The Guardian: ‘The main reason that Nayef is being held is that the crown prince wrongly believes that he is a threat to the succession. In also going after his money, MBS is attempting to humiliate Nayef so there is absolutely no threat of anyone seeing the former crown prince as a viable alternative.’
It is believed that Nayef and Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz – another senior royal seen as a potential challenger to MBS – are still in detention to this day. Their exact location as of today is unknown.
Nayef has denied plotting against the crown prince, and his lawyers said in 2020 they were ‘concerned’ for his safety.
Meanwhile, MBS has sought to white-wash his image after the 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by a Saudi hit-squad inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and the destructive Saudi-led war in Yemen.
The Crown Prince has taken some steps to make Saudi Arabia appear more liberal to the outside world, such as giving women the right to drive.
But the treatment of his cousin is more in line with his alleged involvement in Khashoggi’s brutal assassination. Now, with no obvious challenger to the throne and the West in need of Saudi Arabia’s oil, MBS’s power appears absolute.
MailOnline has contacted the Saudi embassy in London for comment – but had not received a response at the time of publication.
Who is the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is known as the true power behind the throne in Saudi Arabia.
His father, King Salman, was made ruler in 2015, and his son has been given a huge amount of say in how the country is government.
He won plaudits from Western leaders after he introduced some moderate reforms – allowing women in Saudi Arabia to drive for the first time ever and introducing cinemas to the country.
The Crown Prince – known simply as MBS – also reigned in the country’s fierce and ultra conservative religious police.
Leaders including Theresa May and Donald Trump have rolled out the red carpet for him during his lavish visits.
But the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi has severely damaged his reputation.
MBS has been accused of ordering the journalist’s murder, and the killing sparked calls for him to be replaced as Crown Prince.
While the Saudi authorities have publicly insisted the Prince does not have blood on his hands and did not order the killing, his reputation has been badly tarnished.
He also has directed the Saudi war in Yemen, were the kingdom has been accused of breaching international human rights law and plunging millions into famine.
And questions were already raised about how ruthlessly he will crush opposition after he imprisoned Saudi royals in the country’s five star Ritz hotel last year.
He said he locked them up in a massive anti-corruption drove. But his critics said that the move was a way for MBS to purge his political rivals.