Saudi princes arrested for protesting utility bills at ruling palace

Saudi princes arrested for protesting utility bills at ruling palace

Saudi princes arrested for protesting utility bills at ruling palace

Saudi authorities on January 4 arrested 11 royal family members who protested a decree which ordered the state to stop paying their electric and water bills.

On Thursday, eleven princes were arrested in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; authorities announced in a statement on Saturday.

Sabq reports the princes were demanding financial compensation from a judgment involving one of their cousins and demanding the reversal of a decision to suspend payments for royals' water and electricity bills. It said the men were being held in prison on charges of disturbing public peace and order.

The names of the 11 princes have not been made public.

The arrests were ordered by the newly established anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The country plans to slash its generous welfare program and open energy giant Saudi Aramco to partial privatization.

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The nature of the missions assigned to al-Ajrab Sword Brigade is unclear, but activists say its members specialise in sensitive and royal-related cases.

A year ago dozens of princes, as well as sitting ministers and ex-ministers, were arrested as part of an anti-corruption drive. Some have since reached settlements with the government.

The kingdom has roughly doubled domestic petrol prices and introduced a 5% tax on most goods and services, including food and utility bills.

The Gulf kingdom has also intensified efforts to boost employment of its own citizens.

Saudi Arabia's information minister on Sunday said the handouts would cost the government up to 80 billion riyals ($13.3 billion, 11 billion euros) in 2018. As per the International Labour organisation, the percentage of jobless people in Saudi is 32% (15 to 24 aged people) and 1.18 million Saudis are engaged in government sector while 1.23 million people are pensioners.

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