(CNN)Sheikh Salman al-Awda waited at his Riyadh home for Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It was 2012 and the charismatic preacher received the then 27-year-old prince with little fanfare.
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"We didn't think the visit was a big deal," recalled Awda's son, Abdullah Alaoudh, a Washington-based legal scholar at Georgetown University. "He was just a regular prince."
Despite his obvious ambition, bin Salman was considered a political novice. His father was the governor of Riyadh and not yet king, and, in the eyes of the country's political class, he was just another member of Saudi Arabia's thousands-strong royal family. The prince who would later become known by his initials, MBS, appeared enthusiastic about Awda's ideas for change in Saudi Arabia, according to Alaoudh.
In this meeting and at least two other meetings to come -- including one in the royal court alongside the future King Salman -- Awda, who was 55 at the time, extolled the virtues of reform and inclusive governance, according to Awda's son.
Five years later, King Salman appointed his son as the Crown Prince. Three months after MBS was promoted, Awda was arrested as part of a crackdown overseen by a security agency established by the newly-anointed heir to the throne.