Saudi princes arrested for protesting utility bills at ruling palace

The guards who arrested the princes were from a unit comprising more than 5,000 members linked to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

All 11 princes, who were not identified in the media reports, were arrested after they refused to leave the premises and were brought to the al-Hair maximum-security prison awaiting trial because, the sources told the website, everyone is equal before the law. Their request was to abolish the royal decree, which provides for the abolition of the routine payment of electricity and water bills to royal family members by the state.

In 2017, Saudi Arabia arrested dozens of Saudi princes, former government ministers and businessmen such as Prince Waleed bin Talal and businessman Saleh Kamel, as part of a sweeping anti-corruption probe.

The princes also said they wanted compensation after one of their cousins was handed the death sentence for an unspecified crime, according to Sabq. Prince Mohammed, who sidelined his cousin as heir to the throne, has since consolidated his grip on the kingdom's economy in a meteoric rise in the royal court. The country plans to slash its generous welfare program and open energy giant Saudi Aramco to partial privatization.

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

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.

The economic overhaul has been linked to the arrest of more than 200 princes in an anti-corruption purge in November spearheaded by Prince Mohammed.

King Salman ordered the payment of a monthly cost of living allowance of SR1,000 for the entire government staff and military personnel for a period of one year.

The unemployment rate among Saudis aged 15 to 24 stood at 32.6 percent past year, according to the International Labor Organization.

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