Eleven Saudi Arabian princes were arrested by the ultra-conservative kingdom's authorities for a sit-in protest at a palace in the capital Riyadh in the latest crackdown suspected to be spearheaded by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The kingdom's attorney general issued a statement that the group of royals are awaiting trial after they refused to pay their utility bills. The princes held the protest at the Riyadh Ruling palace on Thursday, 4 January, against the government's recent decision to stop paying water and electricity bills of royal family members. The Royal Guard were deployed to take the princes into their custody after they refused to leave the premises.

"The princes also demanded financial compensation for the death sentence against one of their cousins. They were informed of their wrong approach, but they refused to leave the site. A royal directive was issued to arrest them and they were sent to Al-Hair prison, pending trial," public prosecutor Sheikh Said al-Mujib said in a statement.

The detained princes have not been named by the regime.

The country's royals have been feeling the increasing influence of the crown prince as he further consolidates his control over the kingdom. In a television interview recently, Crown Prince Salman, the heir to the throne, had warned that the kingdom will not tolerate anyone who demanded special treatment regarding the payment of their utility bills.

The attorney general said in a statement, "Despite being informed that their demands are not lawful, the 11 princes refused to leave the area, disrupting public peace and order. Members of the security services stepped in to restore order and the princes were arrested."

The statement went on to say that the orders are "clear in stating that all people are equal and that anyone who does not abide by the rules will be accountable whoever they are".

The princes were protesting against the king's implementation of austerity measures, which have recently been put in place by the world's top oil exporter amid dwindling crude prices. As part of a series of reforms introduced by the regime, energy subsidies, taxation policies and other benefits to royal family members have been curtailed.

Saudi Arabia largest-ever budget
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a cabinet meeting in Riyadh - File photo Reuters