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Saudi princess who criticised crown prince is released after three years in jail without charge

Princess Basmah was arrested in 2019 before she was about to travel to Switzerland for medical treatment

Vishwam Sankaran
Sunday 09 January 2022 13:21 GMT
Saudi princess Basmah bint Saud, pictured in Washington DC in 2017
Saudi princess Basmah bint Saud, pictured in Washington DC in 2017 (AFP via Getty Images)

Saudi authorities have released Princess Basmah bint Saud and her daughter who were jailed without charge nearly three years ago, a human rights group said on Saturday.

“Basmah bint Saud Al Saud and her daughter Suhoud, detained since March 2019, have been released,” non-profit organisation ALQST tweeted.

Basmah is the youngest daughter of King Saud, who ruled Saudi Arabia between 1953 and 1964. She has long been seen as a proponent of women’s rights and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy.

The 57-year-old was arrested before she was about to travel to Switzerland for an undisclosed medical treatment, and reportedly implored King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in April 2020 to release her on health grounds.

“She was denied the medical care she needed for a potentially life-threatening condition,” ALQST for Human Rights said, adding that no charges were levelled against her at any point during her detention.

In a statement to the UN in July 2021, Princess Basmah’s family called for an intervention in her case “amid serious concerns that their lives are in danger”.

The statement was issued on behalf of the family by the UK-based non-profit Grant Liberty, whose PR director Lucy Rae said at the time: “In Saudi Arabia today, many activists and human rights defenders are languishing in jail simply for the crime of wanting a better world.

“They have been tortured, forced into hunger strikes and held in solitary confinement for months on end.

“Princess Basmah and her daughter appear to have joined their number and been targeted due to speaking out against the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.”

Earlier testimony by the family to the UN also noted that she was deemed an ally of Mohammed bin Nayef, the previous designated heir to the throne, who is reportedly still under house arrest in the country.

While Mohammed bin Salman has overseen a reform drive since his appointment in 2017 – including lifting a decades-long ban on women driving cars – the Saudi authorities have also cracked down on dissidents, including women’s rights activists and political opponents during this period.

In November 2017, dozens of senior officials, royals and business leaders were detained at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel as part of an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign, and in 2020 the royal guard arrested King Salman’s brother and nephew, accusing them of fomenting a coup against Prince Mohammed.

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