A Saudi Arabia dissident living in exile in Canada said he was recently warned by Canadian authorities that he was a “potential target” of Saudi Arabia and that he needed to take precautions to protect himself.
Activist Omar Abdulaziz, 29, had a close association with murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, told the U.K.’s The Guardian newspaper that he believed there was a threat to his safety and that Canadian authorities had credible information about a possible plan to harm him.
The video blogger has spoken out against Saudi government propaganda and its use of internet trolls on Twitter.
“[The Canadian authorities] received some information regarding my situation that I might be a potential target,” Abdulaziz told the Guardian. “MBS and his group or – I don’t know – his team, they want to harm me. They want to do something, but I don’t know whether it’s assassination, kidnapping, I don’t know – but something not OK for sure.”
Abdulaziz said it was the first time that he was called by the RCMP.
“They asked me, ‘What do you think about it?’ I said, ‘I’m happy,’” Abdulaziz told The Guardian. “I feel that I’m doing something. You know, if you’re not doing anything that bothers MBS, that means you’re not working very well.”
An attorney for Abdulaziz confirmed the account, reported The Guardian.
“In his previous contacts with the Canadian government, he was always informed about the general threats and risks to him, but this time it is different,” Alaa Mahajna told The Guardian. “The warning about serious threats to his life was different this time. It was formal and conveyed with a clear sense of urgency and advice to take precautions. It felt more credible and more concrete.”
U.S. intelligence agencies say they have “medium to high confidence” that Saudi Prince Mohammed ordered the murder of Khashoggi but the kingdom has blamed rogue Saudi agents for the killing.
A spokesperson for Canada’s RCMP told The Guardian: “Only in the event that an investigation results in the laying of criminal charges would the RCMP confirm its investigation, the nature of any charges laid and the identity of the individual(s) involved.”
Before journalist Khashoggi was murdered, him and Abdulaziz were preparing an army of “electronic bees” to counter what they called Saudi “trolls.”
Abdulaziz said he still feels safe in Canada.
“At the end of the day, I’m fine. I’m OK here in Canada,” he told The Guardian. “I hope that they’re not going to do anything stupid,” he said.
Abdulaziz first came to Canada in 2009 to study English. He studied at a university in Quebec. He started as an activist in 2011 in the early days of the Arab Spring and a push for change.
As Abdulaziz’s following on Twitter grew, in 2013 the Saudi government told him his scholarship to study in Canada was pulled. He applied for political asylum in Canada in February 2014. After being granted political asylum he launched a YouTube channel.
Canada’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has been stained since then federal Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland – who is now deputy prime minister – criticized that country’s crackdown on dissent.
Sarah Murphy/Alberta Press Leader
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