Saudi king's brother 'considers exile' after Yemen war criticism

A senior Saudi prince is considering exile after blaming King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the war in Yemen, according to a report by the UK-based Middle East Eye (MEE).

Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, King Salman's brother and one of the few remaining sons of the Saudi state's founder, King Abdulaziz, told anti-war protesters gathered outside his London residence that the entire family should not be blamed for the war in Yemen

"There are specific people who are responsible. Don't blame the entire family," the prince can be heard saying in a video taken earlier in the week.

Asked who the individuals were, the prince said it "was the king and his heir apparent."

"In Yemen and elsewhere, our hope is that the war ends today before tomorrow," Prince Ahmed added.

The official Saudi Press Agency issued a communique within hours of the video going viral, which said the prince's statement were misinterpreted.

It said that the prince meant the royal family was seen as responsible because of their position in government.

According to the MEE report, a source close to Prince Ahmed said he stood by his original remarks.

"He said the report by state controlled SPA was fake and that the words quoted by the agency were not his," MEE reported.

Wave of arrests

Public displays of dissent are rare in the kingdom, where critics of the Saudi monarch face lengthy jail sentences, corporal punishment and hefty fines. 

Dozens of royal family members, ministers, and top businessmen were arrested in November 2017 during an "anti-corruption purge" launched by Mohammed bin Salman. Allegations against those detained included money laundering, bribery, and extorting officials.

The crackdown, which came via a royal decree, was said to be in response to "exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to illicitly accrue money".

Most were freed after reaching settlement deals with the government, including Saudi businessman and billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

Analysts say the arrests were a way for the crown prince to consolidate economic and political power in Saudi Arabia.

Prince Ahmed previously served as interior minister in 2012 under the late King Abdullah before he was replaced by Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.