The New York Times reports: Until about four months ago, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 29, was just another Saudi royal who dabbled in stocks and real estate.
He grew up overshadowed by three older half brothers who were among the most accomplished princes in the kingdom — the first Arab astronaut; an Oxford-educated political scientist who was once a research fellow at Georgetown and also founded a major investment company; and a highly regarded deputy oil minister.
But that was before their father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, 79, ascended to the throne. Now Prince Mohammed, the eldest son of the king’s third and most recent wife, is the rising star.
He has swiftly accumulated more power than any prince has ever held, upending a longstanding system of distributing positions around the royal family to help preserve its unity, and he has used his growing influence to take a leading role in Saudi Arabia’s newly assertive stance in the region, including its military intervention in Yemen.
In the four months since his coronation, King Salman has put Prince Mohammed in charge of the state oil monopoly, the public investment company, economic policy and the ministry of defense. [Continue reading…]
BBC News reports: Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has upheld the sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years of imprisonment on blogger Raif Badawi, despite a foreign outcry.
Speaking from Canada, his wife Ensaf Haidar told news agency AFP, “this is a final decision that is irrevocable.”
In March, the kingdom expressed “surprise and dismay” at international criticism over the punishment.
At the time, the foreign ministry issued a statement saying it rejected interference in its internal affairs.
In 2012, Badawi was arrested and charged with “insulting Islam through electronic channels”. [Continue reading…]