RIYADH (Dispatches) – A number of prominent jailed Saudi royals and their allies have reportedly hired influential lobbyists in the U.S. to establish links with President Donald Trump’s circle and push for an end to ‘political persecution’ by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), while he is busy dealing with a coronavirus-related economic crisis in the kingdom.
According to a report published by The New York Times newspaper, allies of several jailed Saudis have contacted Washington lawyers and consultants during the past few weeks, and mounted legal, lobbying and public relations campaigns as part of efforts to end what they term as political persecution by the kingdom’s 34-year-old de facto ruler.
The report added that an unnamed former senior associate of jailed Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud signed a $2-million agreement on May 15 to retain Trump-tied lobbyist Robert Stryk to "advocate for the release” of the imprisoned member of the House of Saud.
Last month, Barry Bennett, a Republican political consultant and former senior adviser to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, signed a client with affiliation to an incarcerated Saudi prince, who had been a top rival of MbS.
Moreover, representatives of detained Princess Basmah bint Saud — a 56-year-old royal family member long seen as a proponent of women’s rights and a constitutional monarchy — have inconspicuously approached lawyers and consultants in Washington and London to garner support for such an objective.
Despite Saudi crown prince’s close relationship with Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, there is growing uneasiness in Congress plus among some Pentagon and State Department officials with him, especially in the wake of the Saudi-led war on Yemen and the premeditated murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey’s Istanbul in 2018.
The reported push in Washington comes as the coronavirus outbreak and plummeting oil prices have saddled Saudi Arabia with its worst financial crisis in decades in a blow to MbS.