Reuters revealed details of a massive smear campaign on Twitter against Muhammad bin Nayef, the former Saudi crown prince and his assistant, Saad al-Jabri, a former official in Saudi intelligence.
Reuters said that the Twitter storm against the two former officials came after King Salman was hospitalized in the capital Riyadh on Monday, suffering from cholecystitis, according to a statement by the Saudi Press Agency, noting that the government media office refused to comment on his condition.
Reuters quoted two Saudi sources – on condition of anonymity – as saying that the campaign carried out by government supporters on Twitter appeared to be aimed at influencing public opinion before the expected announcement of corruption charges against Bin Nayef.
“They have been preparing documents against him (Bin Nayef) since March,” said one source familiar with the matter, adding that Twitter campaign officials wanted to “tarnish his image locally.”
The second Saudi source said: “It is clear that the campaign received government support because two prominent Saudi personalities close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were inflating the tweets.
Reuters says that before the overthrow of Muhammed bin Nayef from the reign of Al-Ahd, he was seen as the most important competitor to the throne, and he controlled the country’s security forces, as well as he developed close ties with Western intelligence agencies, and was still popular among the marginalized conservatives before. Crown.
The agency noted that the media office of the Saudi government did not respond to a request for comment, and Reuters was unable to reach Bin Nayef or his lawyer or Al-Jabri for comment.
Bin Nayef was arrested by the Saudi authorities last March, and he is being held with two senior royal families in an unknown location. Al-Jabri is in exile in Canada, while the Saudi authorities detained two of Al-Jabri’s sons in March.
Reuters quoted Khaled, Jabri’s son, Khaled, as saying that the Twitter campaign was “a deviation from the actual story: that my brother and sister are being held hostage, and that they are subjected to unlawful persecution and false allegations.”
In June, closely related Saudi sources told Reuters that Muhammad bin Salman was seeking charges against Bin Nayef relating to allegations of corruption during his time in the Ministry of Interior, and that bin Salman wanted to retrieve documents that al-Jabri had access to. Saudi authorities did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment at that time.
The agency noted that the counter-campaign of Muhammad bin Nayef is the latest in a series of measures aimed at strengthening the power of Bin Salman within the ruling family, and removing threats that he feared in the way of extending his authority before the succession of his father, the King, by his death or abdication.
Reuters added that several Saudi newspapers published a report on Sunday for the Wall Street Journal, which included quoting Saudi officials and government documents, that al-Jabri is accused of leading a network of officials to misrepresent approximately $ 11 billion in government funds from the Interior Ministry’s fund during bin Nayef’s tenure.
Reuters said that Khaled, Jabri’s son, strongly denied the newspaper’s report, saying in a text message that his father had never controlled the box and that Bin Nayef “had full discretion” over him “with a clear and undisputed mandate from King Abdullah.”
The agency noted in its report that thousands of accounts on Twitter used hashtags such as “Fugitive Saad Al Jabri” and “Corruption of Saad Al Jabri” during the weekend.
And she said that one of the prominent accounts that are often tweeted with pro-government content and which has more than 1.2 million followers, called Saudi Thunder, tweeted: “Muhammad bin Nayef allowed the corruption network run by Al-Jabri to operate.”
Reuters quoted a diplomat as saying that the tweets paved the way for the Saudi authorities to accuse Bin Nayef of involvement in the alleged al-Jabri corruption case.
The first Saudi source said that Mohammed bin Salman’s aides are “speeding up the campaign” against Bin Nayef and al-Jabri before the US presidential elections in November in anticipation of the loss of office by President Donald Trump, who has publicly expressed support for bin Salman.
The agency noted that Trump’s opponent, presumed Democratic candidate Joe Biden, took a tougher stance towards Muhammad bin Salman, and promised to make him “pay the price” for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and also pledged to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
At the conclusion of the report, Reuters said that Twitter was the favorite tool of Saud al-Qahtani, the former adviser to Muhammad bin Salman, as he ran the media center at the royal court and formed an electronic army tasked with attacking opponents over the Internet.
She noted that Al-Qahtani was expelled in 2018 after allegations of his involvement in the murder of Khashoggi and was interrogated but he was not charged.
Reuters quoted several sources as saying that Al-Qahtani was still working in the inner circle of “Bin Salman”.