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MALTATODAY 19 June 2022

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NEWS 16 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 19 JUNE 2022 UN calls for release of jailed 'Maltese' Saudis MATTHEW VELLA THE United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has called on Saudi Arabia to immediately release two natu- ralised Maltese and Saudi na- tionals, the jailed adult children and son-in-law of former top Saudi spymaster Saad al Jabri, who lives in exile in Canada. Omar and Sarah al Jabri were prevented from leaving Saudi Arabia to join their father, al- so a Maltese national, and were instead charged for money laun- dering and conspiracy to escape the kingdom unlawfully. They denied the charges. Omar was sentenced to nine years' jail while his sister received a six- year-and-a-half jail term. Also arrested was Al Jabri's son-in-law Salem Almuzaini, who was detained in Dubai and then flown to Saudi Arabia. The United Nations said Saudi Arabia should release Al Jabri's children and Almuzaini immedi- ately and unconditionally. It also called on the United Arab Emir- ates to compensate and provide reparations to Almuzaini for his detention. Saudi Arabia's former spymas- ter, now a naturalised Maltese citizen, has been accused of em- bezzling billions of dollars by State-owned companies of Saudi Arabia. But Saad al Jabri, 61, has ac- cused Saudi ruler Prince Mo- hammed Bin Salman, or MBS, of plotting to assassinate him. Al Jabri fled the kingdom fear- ing for his life, after having acted as top aide of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, known as MBN, who was removed as crown prince in 2017 by King Salman in favour of his son, Mohammed bin Sal- man. MBN was once one of the most influential members of the Saudi ruling family and a trusted American ally known for his role in helping combat Al Qaeda. His dismissal capped the rapid rise to power by his younger cousin, Mohammed bin Salman. Al Jabri, a former major-ge- nereal and minister of state, spent years at MBN's side and is credited by the Americans with helping stop terrorist attacks on Western targets. He has been liv- ing in exile in Canada since May 2017, having acquired Maltese citizenship in 2016 through the Individual Investor Programme. Tahakom Investments, a subsidiary of the Saudi sover- eign-wealth fund, filed a Canadi- an civil suit alleging Al Jabri re- ceived $55 million in bribes. But Al Jabri's family says the Saudi government is pursuing him be- cause he knows the secrets of the royal family, including details about MBS's personal life, how he has received and spent money since joining the line of succes- sion, and what he has done to achieve power. In the United States, another court dismissed a similar lawsuit after a rarely-used U.S. govern- ment intervention to stop the release of classified information that prevented the case from proceeding. The Saudi Arabian govern- ment's hunt for its former spy- master, is also taking place in Malta, with a request to prevent the sale of a Sliema apartment owned by Al Jabri. In the Maltese court case, the Saudi-registered Sakab Saudi Holding Company is trying to stop Al Jabri and his Cayman Islands company Ten Leaves Management, from sell- ing a Tigné Point apartment. Sakab, part of a group of 17 companies set up by the King- dom of Saudi Arabia, claims Al Jabri used offshore structures to distribute €6 billion in funds to other commercial entities be- tween 2008 and 2017, funnelled to other members of the Sakab group, allegedly on Jabri's in- structions. Jabri denies the alle- gation. But Sakab is part of a network of front companies used for clandestine security operations with the United States. Al Jabri also alleged in a 2020 U.S. lawsuit that Canadian au- thorities foiled a plot to kill him by a "hit squad" sent by MbS, less than two weeks after the October 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Riyadh denies Jabri's allega- tion and MbS's involvement in Kashoggi's murder. Biden Saudi visit Joe Biden's visit to Saudi Ara- bia and meeting with its de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman was descirbed as "the equiva- lent of a presidential pardon for murder", according to Khalid Al Jabri, the son of Saad Al Jabri. The US president once vowed to make Saudi Arabia "a pariah" after the death of Jamal Kashog- gi, the Washington Post col- umnist whose 2018 murder was ordered, according to US intelli- gence. "Biden [has] made it clear that there won't be any direct conse- quences for MBS for murdering Khashoggi. Unfortunately, [the visit] is the equivalent of a pres- idential pardon for murder, and MBS would perceive it as the Biden-issued license to kill more Khashoggis," Al Jabri said. Omar and Sarah al Jabri were prevented from leaving Saudi Arabia to join their father Saad al Jabri (left), also a Maltese national, and were instead charged for money laundering and conspiracy to escape the kingdom unlawfully. Al Jabri says Canadian authorities foiled an attempt on his life by a hit-squad sent to kill him by Mohammed Bin Salman (first from left), who removed Al Jabri as well as his MBS's cousin Mohammed bin Nayef, in a 2017 palace coup A Constitutional case challenging Malta's Freedom of Information Act and the misuse of FOI procedures to block or limit access to information within a reasonable time, has been launched by a team of Public Interest Litigation Network (PILN) lawyers and the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation. The lawyers are arguing that the remedies the FOI Act provides do not respect the right to freedom of expression and infor- mation protected by Article 41 of the Con- stitution. The case is based on FOI requests for a secret agreement, signed by the then-Min- ister of Energy, Konrad Mizzi, on behalf of Malta Government and by SOCAR Trading SA, and for a report on the feasibility of a second interconnector to Malta. The ener- gy ministry has refused both FOI requests on questionable grounds. The energy ministry later supplied a re- dacted version of the feasibility report, in response to a ruling by the Information and Data Protection Commissioner. The Constitutional case aims to limit state authorities' arbitrary refusals to provide information in the public interest and to reverse the culture of secrecy behind their claims of privacy and commercial sensitiv- ity, enabling public interest journalism to hold power to account. The respondents have raised preliminary pleas challenging the Constitutional action, in relation to which they will need to pres- ent evidence at the next hearing on 14 No- vember 2022. Public Interest Litigation Network (PILN) members Dr Claire Bonello, Dr Alain Mus- cat, and Dr Joseph Mizzi are acting on be- half of the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foun- dation and its director. Background - Public Interest Litigation Network (PILN). The PILN is a network of lawyers focussed on cases of human rights violations and other matters of public interest, exploring national, supranational, and international legal mechanisms to ensure State and in- dividual accountability, address abuses of power, and engage civil society and the legal community to advance social change. It is currently made up of 16 members covering a wide range of legal expertise with years of experience in human rights, media, environmental and planning, con- stitutional, commercial, and civil law. Five members form the Governance Committee which oversees the function of the network and selects cases for onward referral to its members. The PILN was launched by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation in September 2021, but functions autonomously. It is cur- rently funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants Active Citizens Fund, which is operated in Malta by the NGO, SOS Malta. Constitutional challenge to Freedom of Information law PILN legal challenge to misuse of FOI procedures to block or limit access to information kicks off

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