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11 Saudi Princes Arrested After Protesting Over Their Utility Bills

Eleven royal princes in Saudi Arabia have been arrested, according to Saudi authorities, allegedly after they protested over a decree that stops the government from covering the cost of their electric and water bills.

The princes also demanded "compensation for a death sentence implemented in 2016 against one of their cousins," Reuters reports.

This is the second time in two months that nearly a dozen princes have been arrested by authorities. In November, 11 princes were among the 200-odd people arrested in an anti-corruption sweep as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman consolidated power.

NPR's Jackie Northam reports that the new arrests were sparked by austerity measures put in place by the crown prince:

"Saudi Arabia's attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, says the 11 princes were arrested after refusing to leave a palace in Riyadh over a decree that ordered the state to stop paying their utility bill. The princes were taken to a maximum security prison and face a number of charges. In a statement, Mojeb said no one is above the law.

"The arrests are reflective of the hard-line stand by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to push through austerity measures. ... But perhaps as a sign that the cuts are too deep, last week King Salman announced that state employees would receive a monthly bonus for the next year."

Saudi Arabia has been pursuing austerity measures — including imposing a new tax and cutting some subsidies and payments to royal family members — after years of low oil prices.

But some members of the royal family, including the crown prince, don't seem to be feeling the pinch. In November, according to U.S. intelligence officials, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman paid a record-breaking $450 million for a Leonardo da Vinci painting.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.