By orders of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saud Al-Qahtani, the prominent figure involved in his assassination of the former royal court advisor, has returned to the public scene and is being warmly received and celebrated.
This comes while the remains of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed at the age of 59 inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, have not yet been found.
Al-Qahtani appeared on June 17, 2023, in the city of Jeddah, west of the kingdom. Saudi accounts affiliated with the government circulated two video clips. The first showed Al-Qahtani using a crutch in his movements as he entered the home of his uncle, businessman Ahmed Al-Obaikan, amid a great celebration of his arrival.
The reception of Al-Qahtani was intentionally filmed, including his uncle presenting him with a commemorative shield and other gifts.
While this is the first documented appearance of a man whose hands and reputation are stained with crimes of murder, torture, and violations, whitewashing and gradually reintroducing him to the scene has been ongoing for years.
Sometimes through leaking information that he is still present at the royal court, and other times through the repetition of electronic rumours by individuals affiliated with the regime using his name on Twitter.
Al-Qahtani was born on June 7, 1987, in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. He graduated from King Saud University with a Bachelor’s degree in Law and trained in the Saudi Air Force, where he became a sergeant before transitioning to the office of the Crown Prince.
He worked as a legal advisor in the secretariat of Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, then served as the director of media in the administration of the Crown Prince.
He also worked as an advisor in the office of the Deputy Chief of the Royal Court and as an advisor in the office of the Chief of the Royal Court. In 2008, he became the general director of the Monitoring and Analysis Center in the Royal Court, and in 2012, he became an advisor in the Royal Court.
In 2015, King Salman bin Abdulaziz issued a royal decree appointing him as a counsellor in the Royal Court with the rank of minister. In 2017, he was appointed the head of the Cybersecurity and Programming Union.
Al-Qahtani’s long-term appointment in the Royal Court allowed him to have close access to the royal family’s secrets and later exploit them in plotting conspiracies to facilitate Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to the crown prince position and the removal of his opponents.
He and the advisor Turki Al-Alsheikh played pivotal roles in the rise of Mohammed bin Salman and helped in the detention and coercion of the former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef to surrender his position.
According to the British writer David Hearst, Al-Qahtani was behind the leak of false news to foreign newspapers portraying “bin Nayef” as a desperate drug addict to tarnish his reputation and help to overthrow him to clear the way for the young king’s son. Al-Qahtani also played a prominent role in polishing the image of Mohammed bin Salman and promoting his name and ideas on social media platforms.