A French court has sentenced Saudi princess Hassa bint Salman to 10 months jail in absentia over complicity in the beating and imprisonment of a plumber at her Paris residence in September 2016.
The high-profile conviction came a year after Jamal Khashoggi – a Saudi insider turned critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The workman testified that Princess Hassa, the older sister of MBS, ordered her bodyguard to tie him up, threaten him at gunpoint, and kiss the princess’ feet after he was seen taking pictures of the sink he was fixing.
The princess assumed he was photographing her reflection in the mirror, while the workman said he was simply taking pictures for the job.
The plumber, Ashraf Eid, says he was tied up by the bodyguard on the orders of Hassa and held for hours, during which time his phone was destroyed.
He testified that the princess shouted, “Kill him, the dog, he doesn’t deserve to live,” AFP said.
The jail sentence and fine of 10,000 euros handed to Hassa on Thursday was notably double the amount sought by prosecutors, according to the agency.
The princess has never returned to France for the court proceedings and has had an arrest warrant in her name since 2017.
The bodyguard Rani Saïdi, who appeared before the court, was given an eight-month suspended jail sentence and fined 5,000 euros.
The conviction of the high profile Saudi royal was handed down on the eve of the first anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
It also came as the FBI released the name of a Saudi official which lawyers for families of the 9/11 victims have been seeking for years in their bid to tie the Saudi government to the 2001 attacks. The ongoing legal battle is seen as the key barrier to the listing of state oil behemoth Saudi Aramco on the New York Stock Exchange.
Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the throne set to rule Saudi Arabia for the coming decades, has made the privatization of Aramco the lynchpin of his economic vision for the country. He is seeking to rearrange it from oil dependency and raise the profile of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, the PIF.
In recent days, he has signaled he will not be deterred in his quest for the largest IPO in history, unceremoniously sidelining the country’s energy minister over the weekend and putting trusted allies in his place.
Yasir al-Rumayyan, the man at the helm of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, will now also head Saudi Aramco – the state oil giant whose partial privatization will benefit the fund.
The MBS vision has until now faced stumbling blocks amid repeated reckless foreign policy moves – from the disastrous war in Yemen, where his proxies are now in open warfare with those of his supposed ally, the United Arab Emirates, to the attempted kidnapping of the Lebanese premier, to the murder of Khashoggi.
The Washington Post columnist, who needed to obtain paperwork for a marriage, was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on 2 October 2018, never to emerge again.
The operation by a 15-man hit squad, flown in from Saudi Arabia to carry out what was later revealed to be a slow and horror-movie-style killing, caused outrage in Washington – where Khashoggi was often the only window that policymakers and journalists had into the kingdom.
It became clear in the hours and days following the disappearance of Khashoggi that the Saudi court had no air-tight explanation to give, or game plan for the fallout.
The crown prince was reportedly shocked by the blowback, thinking that the incident would pass without notice. The beating of a plumber in Paris would appear to follow in the same pattern of disregard for foreign laws and resort to violence against people deemed troublesome.
In the aftermath of the Khashoggi killing, King Salman made the point of taking his favorite son on a tour of the country to make clear his stature was undiminished even as US lawmakers called for the crown prince to face consequences.
The powerful prince this week hosted a delegation of American evangelical leaders, led by a dual US-Israeli citizen, in a fresh bid to keep his standing with the Trump administration.