Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- A Saudi dissident denied striking a deal with the Saudi government on the basis of which he returned to the Kingdom.
Abdulaziz al Shanbari returned to Jeddah on Sunday after more than two years spent in self- exile in London. During this time, he worked with Saad al Faqih director of the London- base Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia. The group has been widely accused of supporting al Qaeda and waging a media campaign against the Kingdom.
The US-educated al Shanbari revealed he had not spoken to any government authority or official in Saudi Arabia, with the exception of the Kingdom’s embassy in London .
In an interview with Asharq al Awsat on Monday, al Shanbari asked, “If a deal had bee made, why me in particular?”
He owed his return to “discovering the truth” after witnessing a number of sweeping changes in Saudi Arabia, he added. “The return was a personal decision, willingly adopted by myself after I discovered the Movement’s bad aims and that I was walking on the wrong path,” al Shanabri said.
The former Saudi Arabian Airlines employee urged the members of “Al Islah” which he belonged to “Be honest with themselves” and wished they would return “to the truth”. He acknowledged that his former views on Saudi Arabia were “misguided”.
Upon his return to Jeddah, al Shanbari was met at the airport hall by his brothers and sons. Sources close to him asserted that “the security authorities have not met him yet”.
Maj. General Mansur al Turki, Interior Ministry spokesman denied any knowledge of the dissident’s arrival in Saudi Arabia .
His brother Abdullah indicated al Shanabri was not arrested or questioned at the airport, adding that the family left their hotel in Jeddah on Sunday evening and walked around the city.
“He regretted every minute spent outside the Kingdom working with the misleading movement which deceived some people through the distribution of incorrect information”, Abdullah told Asharq al Awsat.
On the circumstances surrounding his brother’s return, Abdullah said, “He contacted us six months ago and expressed his intention to return after discovering the conspiracy targeting his country.” At a meeting in London , Abdulaziz “told me he wanted to return but was afraid. I told him that the morals and customs of our country’s rulers pardon strangers, let alone kinsmen”, he added.
Paying tribute to the efforts of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Sultan, Umm Namiy, Abdulaziz wife, told Asharq al Awsat her husband returned after realizing al Islah was working to damage the Kingdom’s security and stability. “I hope he will be able to perform Hajj this year, in order to cleanse his sins and lead a new life,” she said.
Al Shanbari urged all those who had committed errors to return to Saudi Arabia. The fact that the families of fugitive dissidents are not targeted, he said, “reveals how wise and tolerant our rulers are. My five brothers and my mother enjoyed their full rights, My 23-year-old nephew, Ahmad, is a student at King Fahd Security College.”