At least 16 public figures were recently arrested in Saudi Arabia in what appears to be an attempt to consolidate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s power. It is believed that those arrested spoke out against the kingdom’s policy toward neighboring Qatar.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Photo Credit: EPA

Saudi Arabia has launched a crackdown on public figures who apparently oppose the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his policies. According to various reports, at least 16 Saudis, including popular clerics and academics, have been arrested over the past week.

It is believed that the series of arrests is an attempt by the crown prince to consolidate his power as the crisis with neighboring Qatar continues. According to human rights activists who spoke with the Wall Street Journal, one of the religious figures was arrested because he refused to publicly support the Saudi-led boycott of Doha.

In June, King Salman named his son first in line to the throne. The surprising announcement came after two and a half years of significant changes in the kingdom that began with the war launched by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, the cut in oil subsidies and the privatization of the national oil company Aramco. Primarily due to his father’s efforts to bolster his political authority, the new crown prince was central to the country’s recent developments. He managed the war in Yemen, spearheaded the privatization of Aramco and initiated new energy policies for the kingdom.