RIYADH (Reuters) - Bakr bin Laden, former chairman of construction giant Saudi Binladin Group, has been temporarily released nearly 15 months after his arrest in Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption campaign, three sources with knowledge of the matter said on Thursday.
The sources said he was taken from Riyadh’s Ha’ir prison on Wednesday and then flown to the western city of Jeddah to attend a close relative’s funeral. He is expected to return to detention but the sources said they did not know when.
“He is out, but we’re not sure if it’s for good or not,” said one of the sources, who all requested anonymity.
The move comes amid intense scrutiny of the kingdom’s human rights record after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, and it follows the release earlier this week of businessman Amr Dabbagh and two prominent consultants.
No charges have been made public against bin Laden, who is in his late 60s. He could not be reached, and the Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bin Laden was one of the most high-profile figures arrested in November 2017 on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a purge that also netted princes and ministers and was decried by critics as a shakedown and power play.
At least two other bin Laden brothers, Saleh and Saad, senior executives in the family firm, were also held but released within several weeks. All three men transferred their combined 36.2 percent stake in the company to the state last April.
The government then appointed three representatives and two other brothers to oversee the running of the country’s largest builder.
The authorities have also seized family homes, luxury cars, private jets, and jewellery as part of settlements for the men’s release, sources have said.
The Saudi finance minister told Reuters last month that Saudi Binladin Group would soon have a “normal board” with family members and representatives of government ownership, but did not exclude the possibility that it could eventually be listed on the stock market.
Reuters reported in September that the company ended up on a collision course with the government several years ago after the family resisted earlier pressure from Prince Mohammed to list.
The crown prince said in October that only eight people were still being held as part of the anti-corruption campaign. They are believed to include former Riyadh governor Prince Turki bin Abdullah, Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi, and Adel Fakieh, who was fired as economy minister.
Editing by William Maclean