World News

Brother of billionaire Saudi prince freed after months in detention

Posted November 4, 2018 11:20 a.m. EST

— Authorities in Saudi Arabia have released the brother of a billionaire prince who was in detention for 11 months, according to social media posts by his immediate family.

Saudi Prince Khaled bin Talal is believed to have been in detention since January, though Saudi's state-run news agency did not have details on where he was held or what charges he was facing.

On Friday his sons and niece posted photos of the prince with family, congratulating him on his "safe return."

The prince is the brother of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal -- one of a group of royal family members and businessmen who were held in the lavish Ritz Carlton in Riyadh last year as part of an anti-corruption purge.

Alwaleed, who Forbes estimated had a personal fortune of $17 billion, was released almost three months later. The group paid over $100 billion in settlements for what Saudi authorities said were corruption charges.

But critics outside Saudi Arabia said the wave of arrests were part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's efforts to silence potential opposition to his leadership.

Saudis under scrutiny

Khaled's release comes as Saudi Arabia faces increased scrutiny from Western powers over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.

Khashoggi, 59, a royal court insider-turned-critic, was killed after entering the consulate on October 2 to obtain paperwork for his upcoming marriage to TurkishHatice Cengiz.

Saudi officials have presented shifting stories about Khashoggi's fate, initially denying any knowledge of his death, then arguing that a group of rogue operators, many of whom belong to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's inner circle, was responsible for his killing.

But even as international powers put pressure on the Crown Prince to get to the bottom of Khashoggi's murder, it's unlikely to hurt his ascension to the throne, said Neil Quilliam, who directs the Future Dynamics in the Gulf project at the Chatham House think tank in London.

"At most, in private, his wings will effectively be clipped," Quilliam said. "Some of these more 'adventurous' behaviors will be curtailed. Ultimately, that will be the kind of compromise reached."

Saudi authorities didn't immediately respond to CNN questions on Prince Khaled's arrest and release.