Eleven princes in Saudi Arabia have been arrested for staging a sit-in protest at having to pay their own utility bills, after the kingdom announced subsidies would be cut as part of a major economic overhaul.
The princes had gathered at Qasr al-Hokm palace in the capital Riyadh to demand the cancellation of a recent decree that halted state payment of water and electricity bills for royal family members.
The government is currently trying to reduce its dependence on oil revenues. Public spending has been targeted, including the lifting of some government subsidies.
The economic reforms have been linked to the arrest of more than 200 princes in an anti-corruption purge in November spearheaded by Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
They have led to tension within the royal Al-Saud family which counts thousands of members – only a handful of whom wield direct influence over the kingdom.
All those detained over the weekend, arrested for disturbing the peace, were thought to be sons of the deposed King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
Prince Mohammed has sidelined his cousins to become heir to the throne and has since consolidated his grip on the kingdom’s economy.
Saudi officials estimate that corruption and embezzlement has cost the kingdom at least $100 billion over decades.
Reports suggest the Saudi authorities have demanded money in return for releasing the Saudi princes held at the Ritz Carlton hotel for nearly two months. They want at least $6 billion (£4.4bn) from Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men.
The 11 princes were being detained at Al-Hayer prison south of Riyadh, the capital, pending trial.
"No one is above the law in Saudi Arabia. Everyone is equal and is treated the same as others," the statement said.