Alwaleed bin Talal's father on hunger strike over purge - Middle East Eye

Alwaleed bin Talal's father on hunger strike over purge - Middle East Eye
Tue Jan 2, 2018 11:52:26

Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz, the father of Alwaleed bin Talal and first progressive reformer in the House of Saud, has gone on a hunger strike in protest at the purge being carried out by his nephew Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the detention of three of his own sons.

The 86-year-old prince, who is the half brother of King Salman, stopped eating on 10 November, shortly after his first son, Alwaleed, was arrested on 4 November, and has lost 10 kilos in one month.

Last week, a feeding tube was inserted into him, but his condition at the King Faisal Hospital in Riyadh remains weak, according to several people who have visited him.

Many royal visitors and members of the business community have paid their respects to the frail prince. One of them spoke about the prince’s actions to Middle East Eye on condition of anonymity.

He said the prince had made no public statement about his refusal to eat. When his half brother King Salman visited him in late November to express his condolences about the death of their sister, Madawi, the king was pictured kissing the hand of Talal, who was then in a wheelchair.

The visitor said that the prince did not raise the issue of the arrest of his three sons with the king on that occasion because Talal did not want to use his access to the king to press for the release of his sons, while others remained in prison.

However, he said there was no doubt as to why Talal had stopped eating: “We know him too well and why he is doing this. There is no medical reason why he has 'no appetite'."

A month before his action, Talal told friends it was right to protest “civilly” to draw attention to the tyranny which his young nephew bin Salman is establishing under the cover of an anti-corruption purge.

Talal’s presence at the hospital has become a meeting point for many of the Al-Saud family, and a way for them to witness what is happening, the visitor said.

'The Red Prince'

Prince Talal is known as a liberal. A former finance minister in the government of King Saud (1953-64), he became known as the Red Prince in the 1960s for leading the Free Princes Movement which called for an end to the absolute monarchy.

But the royal family rejected the movement and Talal was forced into exile in Cairo before his mother was able to engineer a reconciliation with the family.

Talal campaigned for women’s rights long before the decision in September to allow Saudi women to drive. The prince said in one interview: “Saudi women will take their rights eventually... the march towards that should not stop and we have to accelerate this a bit."

The prince has continued to campaign for a constitutional monarchy and the instigation of the separation of powers, which he claims is enshrined in the constitution.

In an interview with Egyptian Al Mihwar TV in 2007, Prince Talal said: “I have always believed in the separation of powers, the executive, legislative, and judicial authorities.

"King Fahd, may he rest in peace, implemented this in 1992, when he adopted the Saudi constitution which is the basic law of government. In it, the separation of authorities was mentioned explicitly. What we are demanding now is for the authorities to become independent.”

(Photo: Prince Talal Bin Abdulaziz at an IMF-World Bank meeting back in 2003, AFP)

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