Saudi officials said Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was greatly disturbed after news emerged that activist and political prisoner Loujain al-Hathloul had gone on hunger strike, vowing to find and punish the prison officials responsible for offering her food in the first place.
“We discovered that not only had they offered her food, but they had spoiled her to the point where she was refusing to eat it,” said a visibly agitated royal court official. “Now she is demanding that she be allowed regular visits by her family.”
“Next she’ll start asking for first aid after every interrogation that gets out of hand,” he added.
In a statement published by the Saudi press agency, Mohammed, commonly referred to as MBS, said the matter went beyond bad behavior at a single prison.
“This is not just a question of how we operate our traditional prisons, but about the greater prison that houses the populace,” he said. “I spent enormous energy and capital to build a reputation for this country, whose name instills fear in people because they know us as a nation that devours its political prisoners, not a weak nation that feeds them.”
Saudi officials worry that the hunger strike will require even more weapons deals with western countries to buy their silence, straining the country’s budget amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Al-Hathloul, along with other activists, was detained in 2018 after demanding the right to drive without first seeking permission from MBS. The following year, the crown prince disbursed some rights, including driving, to loyal female subjects who had not disobeyed the state’s edicts.