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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 January, 2004, 14:21 GMT
Saudis 'kidnap reformist prince'
By Roger Hardy
BBC Middle East analyst

A Saudi prince has accused his government of kidnapping him in Switzerland after he spoke out in favour of reform in Saudi Arabia.

Prince Sultan bin Turki bin Abdel-Aziz says he was lured to a meeting in Geneva, where he was drugged before being flown back to the desert kingdom.

The prince says he is currently under house arrest in the capital, Riyadh.

The claims come at an awkward time for the ruling family, amid growing internal calls for change.

Masked men

Prince Sultan bin Turki bin Abdel-Aziz - a grandson of Saudi Arabia's first king - says his troubles began last year when he first went public denouncing corruption and calling for democratic reform.

The kingdom is facing calls for economic and political reform
Speaking to the BBC from his home in Riyadh - where he says he is in poor health and under house arrest - he described what happened in June, when, he says, two Saudi ministers lured him to a meeting in Geneva.

Five masked men came in and kidnapped and drugged him.

When he regained consciousness he discovered he had been transported back to Saudi Arabia, where he spent several weeks in hospital.

Public rifts in the Saudi ruling family are relatively rare - but the prince's branch of the family has been in trouble before.

His father, Prince Turki bin Abdel-Aziz - a brother of the country's ailing monarch, King Fahd - moved to Cairo after a falling-out with senior princes.

His son's allegations come at an awkward time for the ruling House of Saud, as it attempts to crush Islamic militants thought to be linked to al-Qaeda - and to meet growing demands for political and economic reform.

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