A Saudi diplomat held hostage in Yemen for 18 months has urged his family to organise demonstrations asking the government to meet al Qaeda demands to free detained women and Muslim clerics as the best way to get him freed from captivity.
He made the appeal in a recording posted online late on Sunday, the fourth such statement by Abdullah al-Khalidi since militants seized the Saudi vice consul in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden in March 2012.
Khalidi, who wore a white robe and headdress in the video, told his family that arranging meetings with Saudi princes and officials would not ensure his release.
Instead he asked his family to take to the streets and demand the release from Saudi prisons of women and some clerics held on security grounds, saying this would be the best way to get him freed. All public protest in Saudi Arabia is illegal.
“Pressuring governments through street demonstrations is a well-known policy worldwide and if we look at neighbouring countries we will find it has yielded results,” Khalidi said in the video.
“Go out in demonstrations and sit-ins with signs whether in Dammam or Khobar or any place that can send the message to the Saudi government,” he said, referring to areas in eastern Saudi Arabia where much of the country’s oil industry is based.
The authenticity of the recording could not be verified. The time of its recording was also unclear although Khalidi also sent his family greetings on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, indicating he could have recorded the message in July.
Saudi officials were not immediately able to comment.
U.S.-allied Yemen is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the most active militant franchises of the network founded by Osama bin Laden.
The government of the impoverished Arab country is struggling to assert its authority following more than two years of political turmoil that began with protests that eventually ousted veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh.