Mohammed bin Nayef – the detained former Saudi crown prince and interior minister – has been the victim of a sustained and coordinated attack from inside Saudi Arabia on social media that risks endangering his personal safety, lawyers acting for him have warned.The lawyers have written to YouTube demanding it take down a video, saying the content claiming he had been plotting to bring down Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS] runs the risk of inviting serious retribution and harm to him. YouTube has not yet acted on the complaint.
Separately, it has emerged that an apparently spontaneous surge in the number of tweets ahead of the US elections claiming Mohammed bin Nayef was part of a Democrat-led “deep state” plot to destabilize the Saudi Arabian royal family was orchestrated largely through bots run by supporters of Bin Salman, research shows.
The two developments serve to underline the perilous state of the 60-year-old Bin Nayef, who was close to the Obama administration and to then-vice-president Joe Biden. The former interior minister has been under house arrest since March. He was ousted as crown prince in 2017.
A cross party group of British MPs has been denied access to him but is due to produce a report on his welfare before Christmas. The report is likely to call on the incoming Biden administration to press for his release.
In the letter to YouTube, the lawyers point out the claims in the video that Bin Nayef has been at large and at one point seen next to Biden are totally false, and part of an elaborate conspiracy theory that he is working to undermine Mohammed bin Salman.
They point out “the true position is that our client has been detained against his will and without charge since March 2020 where he remains to this day. Our client has limited access to his family or lawyers and has been prevented from seeing a personal doctor who has been responsible for his treatment for many years.
“Such communication as our client does enjoy is undoubtedly monitored. Both our client and our client’s family are concerned for their safety, and it is not known whether the lives of our client and our client’s family are in jeopardy.”
The letter describes the video’s suggestion that he is plotting against the Saudi state as completely unfounded. “His loyalty to the crown prince had never wavered and he continues to support the established monarchy.”
The Twitter campaign inside Saudi Arabia also alleges Mohammed bin Nayef had been part of the plot against his cousin, Bin Salman that was uncovered by the crown prince.
The tweets began two days after a call by Donald Trump in the final weeks of his election campaign for the release of more emails written by Hillary Clinton, some of which were supposed to show the Obama administration was plotting to undermine the Saudi royal family.
However, new research shows that at least 40% of the tweets denouncing the plot and the role of Bin Nayef were generated by what an independent agency has described as “bot-like behavior”. The agency also claims the bots were seeking to push false narratives online and as the false narratives trend, persuade news outlets to pick up the story.