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The legal war between the Saudis and their former master spy

The family of a former high-ranking Saudi intelligence officer living in exile and caught in an international feud with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says they have become pawns in the kingdom’s efforts to bring the spy chief back home. A Saudi court arrested two of Saad al-Jabri’s adult children last year for money laundering and conspiracy to escape the kingdom illegally, charges they deny.

Now, an attempt by the family to appeal the convictions has failed, according to Saudi officials. The Jabri family claims that Saudi officials have interfered in the legal process, including bypassing appeals procedures, which Riyadh denies. A Saudi official told Reuters in a written statement that the convictions of the Jabri children “have been kept under appeal”.

The appeal, which was not previously reported, comes at a time when the government of U.S. President Joe Biden raised concerns with senior Saudi officials about the detention and trial of children, according to the US State Department.

The family’s claims are the latest volley in a heated dispute in courts in the United States, Canada and Saudi Arabia between the former intelligence officer and the crown prince. Known by the initials MbS, the Crown Prince has increased his control over power in recent years. Jabri was a longtime adviser to another royal, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, whom MbS deposed as heir to the throne in a 2017 palace coup. MbS is now the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and a important ally of the USA. Last summer, Jabri accused MbS in a civil suit in the U.S. federal court of sending agents in 2018 to Canada, where Jabri now lives, to kill him. In January, a group of Saudi state-owned companies claimed in a lawsuit in Canada that Jabri embezzled billions of dollars of state funds while working at the Ministry of the Interior.

Jabri spent many years as Bin Nayef’s closest aide to the Interior Ministry, including helping to review the kingdom’s intelligence and counterterrorism operations. Jabri, through his son Khalid, declined to comment.

Jabri’s family says Omar and Sarah al-Jabri – aged 23 and 21, respectively – filed their appeal in late November at the Riyadh appeals court.

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