LONDON, UK (Caasimada Online) – Rabih Alenezi, a former Saudi police colonel who defected earlier this month, revealed his fears for his life after a bounty was offered on Twitter to find his location.
Alenezi, 44, contacted London’s Metropolitan Police when a verified account, allegedly belonging to a social media influencer in Jeddah, offered 10,000 Saudi rials ($2,662) to find the ex-officer.
Followers of the account increased the bounty and suggested London neighborhoods where Alenezi might be hiding.
Unexpected dissident in the spotlight
Alenezi never anticipated becoming a dissident and seeking asylum when he traveled to the UK in February.
However, after reflecting on human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, he began to speak out, urging Saudi police officers not to spy on people and to focus on fighting “normal crimes” and “bad people.”
His online dissent led to accusations of treason and further fueled his criticism of the Saudi regime.
Alenezi expressed his concerns about forced disappearances and criticized Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s Vision 2030 strategy.
He also raised the issue of the Howeitat tribe, which has reportedly been forcibly displaced to make way for the $500bn Neom megaproject.
Alenezi recounted how he avoided participating in operations to demolish homes for the project or spying on Shia Muslims in Qatif province by feigning illness or having prior commitments.
Alenezi privately warned his police colleagues about the Tiger Squad, a secret unit established under the crown prince for covert assassinations of Saudi dissidents both inside the kingdom and abroad.
He reminded them of the fate of those who killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and he believes the Tiger Squad still exists.
Impact of the defection on Saudi leadership
Alenezi’s defection has made him a target for hundreds of pro-Saudi social media accounts, as the Saudi leadership fears that other officers might follow his example.
The volume and intensity of online attacks against him have increased since his arrival in the UK. His Twitter account was briefly shut down, hacked, and remains inactive.
Abdullah Alaoudh, Saudi director at the Washington, DC-based Freedom Initiative, claimed the attacks on Alenezi are coordinated and systematic.
He noted that he has never seen a bounty offered before and believes the intent is to “make an example out of him” and possibly even assassinate him.
Twitter has been made aware of the situation but has yet to take action.
Alenezi’s case is closely monitored by other Saudi dissidents in the UK, who are concerned about the ease with which he was tracked down.
One activist, who fled Saudi Arabia last year, said that Alenezi’s experience frightened her even though she speaks out anonymously from abroad.