Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia: why is Mohammed bin Salman no longer expected at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral?

Mohammed bin Salman will instead be represented by Prince Turki bin Mohammed al Saud, a minister of state and member of the cabinet since 2018

Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is no longer expected to attend Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on Monday (19 September), a British Foreign Office source said.

This is contrary to Britain’s earlier expectations that he would. Instead Saudi Arabia would be represented by Prince Turki bin Mohammed al Saud, a minister of state and member of the cabinet since 2018. He is the grandson of late King Fahd and part of the new generation that has been brought to power by Prince Mohammed. The source added the change was made by Saudi Arabia.

Britain has invited heads of state from its allies to attend but it is up to those nations who to send.

Why is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia not attending?

The prince, known as "MBS", has been accused by Western intelligence of ordering the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

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He denies the accusation but he has been seen as something of a pariah in the West and has not been to Britain since the murder inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said.

Saudi Arabia jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years for Khashoggi’s murder.

Saudi representation at the funeral has been closely watched for any signs of a further thaw in the diplomatic chill western countries imposed on Prince Mohammed after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. US intelligence said the murder was approved by the crown prince.

What has been said?

Human rights groups had criticised the decision to invite the Crown Prince, saying the invitation to Mohammed Bin Salman represented the whitewashing of an appalling Saudi human rights record.

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Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of Mr Khashoggi, also condemned the controversial invitation. She said his presence at Her Majesty’s state funeral would “stain her memory”.

She told The Guardian: ‘The Queen’s passing is a truly sad occasion. The crown prince should not be allowed to be part of this mourning and not be allowed to stain her memory and use this time mourning to seek legitimacy and normalisation.”

An invitation to China also caused controversy because of Beijing’s treatment of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang. China has confirmed that it is sending its Vice-President, Wang Qishan, to the funeral.

Approximately 2,000 people are expected to attend the Queen’s funeral service including world leaders, VIPS and members of other royal families.

The televised funeral is expected to be watched by 4.1 billion people and analysts predict two million others will flock to the capital for the event.