Middle East

Palestinian-Jordanian billionaire released from Saudi detention, sources say

Sabih al-Masri, one of Jordan's most influential businessman, was warned not to visit Saudi Arabia (AFP)

Palestinian billionaire Sabih al-Masri has returned to his home in Riyadh after being detained by Saudi authorities.

Masri, who is regarded as Jordan's most influential businessman, is expected to be allowed to leave Saudi Arabia soon, sources close to his family told Reuters on Sunday.

His detention followed the biggest purge of the Saudi kingdom's elite and sent shockwaves through business circles in Jordan and the Palestinian territories, where the billionaire has major investments.

Masri is a Saudi citizen of Palestinian origin and chairman of Amman-based Arab Bank, one of the Middle East's largest financial institutions.

He was detained last Tuesday, hours before he was planning to leave the country after he chaired meetings of companies he owns, sources said.

Earlier this week, Middle East Eye reported that Saudi Arabia summoned Jordan's King Abdullah to Riyadh and warned him against attending a meeting for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul.

King Abdullah stayed for a few hours in Riyadh and then left for Istanbul, where he attended the summit. He is a custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and has been vocal in criticising Trump over his decision on Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, the OIC recognised East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Saudi Arabia was represented at the summit by a junior minister of Islamic affairs.

Warned against travel

Confidants said Masri had already been warned not to travel to Saudi Arabia after mass arrests last month of Saudi royals, ministers and businessmen in the biggest purge of the kingdom's affluent elite in its modern history. The push is seen by some critics as a power grab by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"He has been answering questions about his business and partners," said a source familiar with the matter who did not elaborate nor confirm he was held. Another family source said he was detained.

Masri, who originally comes from a prominent merchant family from Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, amassed a fortune from partnering with influential Saudis in a major catering business to supply troops during the US-led military operation to retake Kuwait from Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War.

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