Saudi princess says kingdom lured her to Istanbul with bogus kidnap plot

Sarah Al-Suhaimi says she went to Istanbul consulate in January to pick up some paperwork and was instead arrested and tortured

The Saudi princess who disappeared in Istanbul in January while on an official visit with her mother told a Turkish news channel on Thursday that the Saudi government tried to lure her to the country’s consulate for an abduction plot and was behind her detention.

She said she went to the consulate in Istanbul to pick up some paperwork to send her to a university she was attending and the authorities ignored her lawyer when she asked for medical care. She said she was then arrested by the anti-terror police and detained in solitary confinement for two months.

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Saudi Arabia says it is investigating Sarah Al-Suhaimi’s disappearance but has given no official comment on her status.

In an interview with NTV television, Al-Suhaimi said she rejected the accusation by a lawyer for the Saudi government that she worked for an Iranian-backed militant group and said the kingdom set her up to frame her for an attempted kidnapping.

“What happened to me was the manipulation of Saudi Arabia,” she said. “What happened to me by the Saudis was not the abduction. They had me sent to a stadium with women and they tortured me.”

“They said I worked for a militant group, they said I was using the money from family and children to plan terrorist attacks. They said I was recruiting people to join the terrorist group,” she said.

Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has sought to reduce tensions in the kingdom over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Photograph: /Reuters

Al-Suhaimi’s father is said to be a senior Saudi official at a time when Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s heir apparent, has sought to reduce tensions in the kingdom over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

A week after Khashoggi’s disappearance, Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, tried to reach him in a series of WhatsApp messages to find out where he was. When he did not respond, she went to the consulate to try to find him. She was denied entry and stayed for more than two hours before being arrested by the authorities.

Saudi Arabia immediately denied involvement in the incident, but the Turkish media has reported that 15 Saudi men, including four intelligence officials, arrived in Istanbul on the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance and left immediately afterwards.

In the interview with NTV, Al-Suhaimi said she was not aware of the whereabouts of her mother, Princess Sumeenah bin Abdullah al-Saud, who was also detained and is believed to be in detention in the Saudi capital Riyadh. “All I know is that she is fine and that she is in the Saudi state,” she said.

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