The disappearance of prominent journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, shows that the kingdom might be taking its war against detractors to other countries.
Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and possibly his murder, has raised fear among critics of the absolute monarchy that they are no longer safe, even in exile.
“If true, this would be an abysmal new low. Such an assassination within the grounds of the Consulate, which is territory under Saudi Arabian jurisdiction, would amount to an extrajudicial execution," Amnesty International said in a recent statement, "this case sends a shockwave among Saudi Arabian human rights defenders and dissidents everywhere, eroding any notion of seeking safe haven abroad.”
The kingdom has a history of kidnapping and deporting Saudis, even powerful princes, who fell out of favor and had dared to criticise its policies.
Riyadh also uses other ways to intimidate its critics - sometimes just sending goons to beat people.
Here are some of the most prominent incidents.
1- Ghanem al Dosari, Youtuber
Al Dosari, a Saudi dissident has been living in the UK since 2003. He regularly posts satirical videos on Youtube, mocking the Saudi government and its human rights record.
He has nicknamed Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman “tubby teddy bear.”
Last month, two men attacked him on Brompton Road in London, leaving him bleeding from the mouth.
“How dare you curse Prince Salman, we won’t allow it,” one of them had shouted, al-Dosari told albawaba news.
“I had never thought they would attack me here - anywhere else in the world yes - but in the UK and in front of Harrods in broad daylight? This is the area where I feel most safe.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of the Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division, called it a “goonish assault” by Saudi agents in London.
UK authorities say they are investigating but nothing has been established so far.
2- Prince Sultan bin Turki bin Abdulaziz
In a blatant case of hijacking in 2016, Prince Sultan, once a senior member of the royal family, was tricked into boarding a private jet in Paris. It was supposed to take him to Cairo but instead flew him to Saudi Arabia
“The soldiers and cabin crew dragged Sultan from the plane. He was screaming at his team to call the US embassy,” once the jet had landed, a person who witnessed the incident told BBC.
Sultan has been a critic of Saudi rulers and had been living in exile for many years.
His entourage of around 18 men including European and American guards and assistants was also detained for few days.
He hasn't been heard from since.
3- Omar Abdulaziz, student activist
Earlier this year, Abdulaziz, an outspoken critic of the Saudi government who lives in Canada, received a text message supposedly from a courier service. He use to shop online so didn’t make much of it.
What he didn’t know was that hidden in the message was Israeli spyware that infected his cellphone and disclosed his location and data including pictures.
The Citizen Lab, a project of University of Toronto, identified that Abdulaziz’s phone was infected at the behest of a Saudi entity.
Abdulaziz was granted permanent Canadian residence in 2014 after he applied asylum.
Dissidents like him are also made to suffer with attacks on their families back home.
Abdulaziz’s two brothers and several of his friends have been jailed this year after he refused to quit criticising the government on social media.
4- Loujain al-Hathloul, activist
In March, Loujain, a prominent Saudi women's rights activist, who advocated for Saudi women's right to drive, was whisked away on a plane to Saudi Arabia from Abu Dhabi where she studied at a university.
Her kidnapping and detention came just days before Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman visited the US, mainly to boost his public image.
In Saudi Arabia, she was detained and prohibited from using social media.
5- Prince Turki bin Bandar
Prince Turki went missing sometime in late 2015. He had been living in Paris where he would often post Youtube videos calling for reforms in the kingdom.
According to the BBC, he was detained in Morocco while on a visit there and later deported to Saudi Arabia.
He remains missing.
6- Saud bin Saif al-Nasr
While not high up in the royal hierarchy, al Nasr used twitter to criticise Saudi officials who backed the overthrow of former Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi’s government and called for reforms.
He went missing in 2015.