For critics of the mainstream media's prior fawning over MbS' supposed "reform-minded" agenda involving everything from opening the kingdom up to women driving to co-ed cinemas to late-night pop concerts, this week's bombshell human rights report in the Wall Street Journal will come as no surprise. Men surrounding bin Salman, who prior to Jamal Khashoggi's murder was dubbed "Crown Prince charming" and Saudi Arabia's "reform-minded royal" by Western press, are now being investigated for torturing and threatening to rape prominent Saudi women's rights activists who've been detained for months.
Perhaps to be expected, the prime MbS top aide under investigation by a human rights committee is none other than Saud al-Qahtani — already the chief fall guy for Khashoggi’s death as Riyadh tries to stem international outrage — accused of a stomach churning litany of abuses against women driving activists who were detained last Spring and early summer.
Notably, the commission reports directly to King Salman, which no doubt suggests MbS will be carefully shielded from any wrongdoing in the inquiry.
According to the WSJ:
A human-rights commission reporting to Saudi King Salman is investigating the alleged torture of detained women’s rights activists, including accusations of waterboarding and electrocution, according to government officials and other people familiar with the activists’ situation.
Victims describe threats of rape and death while tortured by electrocution and beating to the point that - according to one testimony featured by the WSJ - a detainee's "fingers resembled barbecued meat, swollen and blue."
The treatment further included "lashing and sexual harassment" according to the testimony of one of more prominent detainees, 29-year old women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who was locked up in Jeddah’s Dabhan prison. “Saud al-Qahtani threatened to rape her, kill her and to throw her into the sewage,” an eyewitness interviewed by the Saudi commission said.
Among 18 of the female prisoners, about half are reported to have suffered torture and abuse. Notably, none have ever been formally charged with a crime, according to the WSJ.
Most were arrested during the very months the kingdom was taking steps to legalize women's driving, absurdly enough, and it's believed they defied a state ban on talking to the media about the issue at a sensitive moment for Riyadh's leaders. Saudi media and political officials had widely blamed the women for "sowing discord" and conspiring with foreign powers.
The Saudi government, meanwhile, has called the allegations “wild claims” while denying that it sanctioned torture of the activists or that security officials were involved. Thus the Saudi commission appears one big whitewashing PR operation designed to again shield Saudi's leaders - and especially MbS - from any wrongdoing. Expect more scapegoats to be held up for western media consumption so Riyadh can claim "justice is served" and there's "nothing to see here".