EDINBURGH University has been called on to sever its financial ties with a Saudi billionaire who offered 100 luxury cars to the pilots in his country who bombed Yemen.

The Herald on Sunday can reveal that the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation, founded by the businessman of the same name, has bankrolled an Islamic study centre at the University with an endowment worth over £8m.

Critics yesterday called on the University to distance itself from Saudi money amid growing concerns over the state’s human rights record.

Saudi Arabia, an autocracy in which the King is both head of state and the government, is under huge international pressure over the alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The regime is accused of luring the Washington Post columnist to the Saudi embassy in Turkey, after which hitmen are said to have killed Mr Khashoggi and chopped his body into pieces.

Allies of the oil-rich state, such as the UK and the US, have questioned Saudi Arabia’s official explanation that the journalist died in a fistfight.

The country’s ongoing military intervention in Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries, has also been condemned following the deaths of thousands of civilians.

Critics believe Mr Khashoggi’s death and the war with Yemen provide the basis on which the West should reset its relationship with Saudi Arabia and its money men.

One established relationship is between His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a member of the Saudi Royal Family, and Edinburgh University.

The Prince is the owner of the Kingdom Holding Company, a firm with huge stakes in the mass media, entertainment, retail and financial services sectors.

His wealth was valued at around $15.9bn last year and he is believed to be the richest person in the Kingdom. He also is a philanthropist and his charitable ventures, including the Foundation, were re-launched recently as Alwaleed Philanthropies.

In 2010, the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World was opened at the University thanks to an endowment provided by the Foundation.

Official figures reveal that the University has received over £8.5m from the Foundation since its inception.

While the Prince is believed to be liberal on social issues such as women’s rights, he has also attracted controversy. In 2015, after Saudi Arabia announced the first round of bombings in Yemen, which is the Kingdom’s southern neighbour, he tweeted to his three million followers.

"In appreciation of their role in this operation, I'm honoured to offer 100 Bentley cars to the 100 Saudi [fighter] pilots".

Thousands of people people shared his post, which was deleted, but citizens from Yemen took to the social media platform to protest.

"100 Bentley cars to 100 pilots who bombed Yemen. Not single ambulance to its hospitals they devastated," said one.

Another Yemeni responded: "Prince Al Waleed gave 100 Bentleys to Saudi pilots. I got my apartment blown up."

HeraldScotland:

Image: Yemen after a bombing round

It also emerged last year that the Prince had been detained at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh as part of an anti-corruption probe.

He was released three months later and a senior Saudi official reportedly said a financial settlement with the attorney general had been agreed.

“The attorney general has approved this morning the settlement that was reached with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and the prince returned home at 11am,” the official told Reuters.

At the time, the Prince told the same media outlet: “There are no charges. There are just some discussions between me and the government.

“I believe we are on the verge of finishing everything within days.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

"In today's world, well regarded institutions like the University of Edinburgh need to be very careful about the due diligence they undertake when courting high net worth donors.

"After the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the spotlight of world opinion is now focused on the Saudi Royal Family and its activities overseas. It is vital that institutions like Edinburgh use their relationships with Saudi royals to press for reform and progressive change in the region."

Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for the Campaign Against Arms Trade, described the Prince as a “cheerleader for the Saudi-led forces that are bombing Yemen”, adding:

“Edinburgh University presents itself as being a progressive and ethical institution. It should not be taking money from people that are connected to the Saudi Arabian regime. Universities are fundamental to our society, they should not be vanity projects for the rich and powerful."

A University spokesperson said: “The University received an endowment to fund the creation of the Centre. We have not yet approached Alwaleed Philanthropies about continued funding.”

He added: “The University has a well-established working group which constantly reviews the sources and purposes of prospective donations and philanthropic fundraising. It has done this previously with donations from Alwaleed Philanthropies and will continue to do so in the future.”

Alwaleed Philanthropies did not respond to a request for comment.