Saudis Release Princess Who Spent 3 Years in Detention

Princess Basmah said to be seeking medical care
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2020 9:05 AM CDT
Updated Jan 10, 2022 4:01 AM CST
Source: Saudi Princess Cut Off From World May Be Seriously Ill
Princess Basmah.   (Wikimedia/Chatham House)

Update: The Saudi princess who spent three years in state prison despite no charges having been filed against her is now free. Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, an outspoken human and women's rights advocate and critic of her cousin the crown prince and the country's government, was released Saturday, her lawyer confirms. The 57-year-old's daughter, who was arrested with her, was also released, the Guardian reports. Both are home, and the princess, who expressed health concerns during her detention, will seek medical care, her lawyer says. It is not clear, however, whether she will be allowed to travel abroad to do so, the New York Times reports. Other prominent Saudi dissidents, activists, and even other members of the royal family are still detained; others who've been released are not allowed to go abroad. Our original story from June 15, 2020, follows:

The family of a Saudi princess who vanished in early 2019 and is believed imprisoned now has a new concern: that her health is failing, or even that she may not be around anymore. "[If] she's dead or alive, we have no idea, we literally have no single clue," a source tells NBC News, which noted it got no response from Saudi authorities about what's happened to 56-year-old Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. It's widely thought Basmah—a cousin of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and an outspoken women's rights advocate—and her daughter were detained in March 2019 while trying to travel to Switzerland for what the princess said was medical care. She'd had sporadic contact since with relatives, but it wasn't until April, at the start of Ramadan, when she revealed via Twitter that she was being held against her will.

In her tweets and on her website, she begged the crown prince and King Salman to release her from prison, the South China Morning Post reported. Insider notes that the king pardons "hundreds" of prisoners during Ramadan each year "as a gesture of goodwill," but Basmah was apparently not among those recipients, and a source says her communications with the public were cut off soon after her plea. Just days before she made her online appeal, the source tells the NBC, she'd been "in a very bad condition [and] ... couldn't get out of bed," with contacts curtailed so she could correspond only with her daughter, thought to still be detained as well. Now, with outside contact cut off, those close to the princess are more worried than ever. The source, who says Basmah had part of her colon removed previously, says she's been hospitalized several times. (More Saudi Arabia stories.)

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