A top aide to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, fired for his role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, personally oversaw the torture of at least one detained female activist earlier this year, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Saud al-Qahtani was a royal adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman until October, when he was sacked and then sanctioned by the US Treasury over the Washington Post columnist’s murder.

Now three sources, briefed on the activists’ treatment, say a group of men subjected this woman and at least three others to sexual harassment, electrocution and flogging between May and August at an unofficial holding facility in Jeddah.

They described the group of about six men as distinct from the regular interrogators the women saw and said they belonged to the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, which Mr Qahtani headed at the time, or to state security.

Mr Qahtani was present when at least one of the women was tortured, two of the sources said.

Reuters has been unable to reach Mr Qahtani since he was sacked in October.

portraits of Saudi King Salman (R) and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) are displayed in Riyadh - Credit: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images
Portraits of Saudi King Salman (R) and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) are displayed in Riyadh Credit: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

A Saudi official said the allegations of mistreatment and torture of the female detaineeswere “false … and have no connection to the truth.”

“The detainees were detained based on accusations related to harming the security and stability of the kingdom,” the official said in response to questions from Reuters.

Their legal rights were being respected and they were receiving medical and social care, family visits and had the right to an attorney, the official said.