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The New Arab

Jordanian businessman Sabih al-Masri released after being detained in Saudi Arabia

Masri was held as he visited Saudi Arabia [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 December, 2017

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One of Jordan's best-known businessmen Sabih al-Masri has been released from his mysterious detention in Saudi Arabia, allegedly due to King Abdullah vocal anti-Israel stance following the US' Jerusalem move.
Jordanian billionaire Sabih al-Masri has been released following his mysterious imprisonment in Saudi Arabia last week, after being caught up in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's dragnet against leading businessmen.

Masri - one of Jordan's best-known businessmen - was detained by Saudi authorities as he was travelling back to Amman on Tuesday.

The Jordanian-Palestinian head of the influential Arab Bank - who also holds Saudi citizenship - was on his way to Riyadh airport when he received a phone call telling him to wait where he was before being detained.

Now free, Masri's brief imprisonment follows the arrest of scores of businessmen and royals over alleged corruption.

"All is well and am happy (to be released) and I was given all respect by everyone here," he added.

Masri told Reuters on Sunday that he would be returning to Jordan after finishing business meetings this week.

He had been warned by associates not to travel to Saudi Arabia following a purge led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi authorities have not commented on Masri's detention.

The billionaire - from one of Palestine's biggest families - owns some of Jordan's biggest businesses and richest land in the country. 

He is a huge investor in the Palestinian territories and the founder of the Saudi Astra Group, and his detention sent shockwaves through the hashemite kingdom and Palestine.

Sources said he might have been detained to pressure Jordan's King Abdullah II not to attend a Muslim summit in Istanbul, which was set up for leaders to agree a response to the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

There have been rumours in Amman that the king's decision to stand with the Palestinian Authority on the issue has put Jordan on a collision course with traditional Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The Gulf powers have been reportedly pressuring the Jordanian leader to accept a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal put forward by the US.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have allegedly threatened economic retaliation against Jordan, unless it agrees to the deal.

Trump's decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem - and recognise it as the capital of Israel - has caused anger in the region.

Despite Saudi King Salman warning US President Donald Trump against the controversial move, the domestic response has been muted, and appear to be attempting to limit Israeli criticism in Saudi media.

Riyadh has reportedly forbidden peaceful protests in support of the Palestinians or stands of solidarity.

Sources have claimed that Riyadh has ordered media outlets not to focus "too much attention" on Washington's controversial decision.

The Saudi royal court sent a "severe warning" to bosses of newspapers, television and radio stations about the issue which has sparked protests across the Arab world, sources told The New Arab.

Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have official relations but various reports have recently emerged of co-operation between the two countries, who share a common foe in Iran.

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