The news of the UK’s invitation to MBS was met with a wave of protests and criticism from Saudi dissidents and human rights groups over the infamous crown prince’s pivotal role in the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
An unnamed British foreign office source was quoted by Reuters as saying on Sunday that the UK had previously expected the crown prince to attend the ceremony for the late monarch, but the kingdom would be represented instead by Prince Turki bin Mohammed al Saud, a minister of state who has been a member of the cabinet since 2018.
The change was made by Saudi Arabia, the source added, without giving any reason for the decision.
Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, died at the age of 96 and was succeeded by her eldest son, Charles III.
Hundreds of foreign royals and leaders are expected to attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London on Monday in one of the biggest diplomatic gatherings in decades.
According to a Friday report by The Guardian, Mohammed bin Salman was set to travel to the UK to participate in the funeral ceremony and deliver his condolences to the royal family.
It was supposed to be the MBS’s first visit to the UK since the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident journalist who was brutally murdered and dismembered at the kingdom’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul almost four years ago.
At the time, the UK government imposed travel bans on a group of courtiers close to the crown prince due to their involvement in the assassination. However, the prince himself did not go under any sanctions by the British government, in spite of a US intelligence report saying that Bin Salman was directly responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.
On Saturday, dozens of human rights campaigners rallied in front of the Saudi Embassy in London, denouncing Bin Salman’s trip to the city for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.
The participants held up posters depicting the results of the kingdom’s atrocities besides placards that read “justice for [Jamal] Khashoggi.” Some other placards carried by the protesters read “boycott the murderers” and “hands off Yemen.”
“We’re here today to oppose the visit of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to Britain. He is coming allegedly to mourn the queen, but while he is here, who will mourn the 377,000 Yemenis who have died as a result of his war upon the Yemeni people?” asked Stephen Bell, one of the organizers of the protest.
Queen Elizabeth II’s passing has led to an outpouring of grief in the West while reviving the British monarchy’s colonial legacy, with people across the world seeing her as a symbol of an institution that thrived through violence, oppression, and theft.
The anti-monarchy chorus is growing louder in the United Kingdom with a spate of arrests by security agencies in recent days drawing condemnation from the country’s civil liberties campaigners.
Beyond the UK, people in countries falling under the commonwealth, from Canada to New Zealand, have also started calling for an end to centuries-old monarchical rule.