The Columbus Dispatch

Saudi princess released after nearly 3 years in jail


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Saudi authoritie­s have released a princess detained in the kingdom under mysterious circumstan­ces for nearly three years, her supporters said Sunday.

The princess, Basmah bint Saud, a daughter of Saudi Arabia’s second king, disappeare­d in March 2019 and landed in a notorious Saudi prison without charge, she wrote on social media at the time.

The reason for her arrest, along with her daughter, was not known, as she never wielded significan­t influence. But it marked the latest case against a royal family member as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman consolidat­ed power as the de facto leader.

Following his father King Salman’s ascension to the throne in 2015, he has prosecuted critics, activists and rival royals, and has locked up and shaken down princes in an anti-corruption purge.

Princess Basmah, 58, and her 30year-old daughter Suhoud al-sharif left al-ha’ir Prison on the outskirts of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, last week and returned home to the port city of Jiddah on Thursday, said her legal adviser Henri Estramant. Princess Basmah suffers from health problems, including osteoporos­is and is now focused on recovering and spending time with family, he added.

Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Washington did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment. The Saudi government has not commented publicly on the case. But in 2020, the Saudi Mission to the United Nations in Geneva told the working group on arbitrary detentions that Princess Basmah stood “accused of criminal offenses involving attempting to travel outside the Kingdom illegally.” There was no trial, it added.

Estramant said security agents scooped up the princess and her daughter as they were preparing to travel to Switzerlan­d for regular medical care.

Princess Basmah’s health deteriorat­ed significan­tly during detention, said her London-based advocates at Grant Liberty, which petitioned the U.N. and campaigned for months to secure her release.

“For months we didn’t even know if she was actually alive or not,” said Grant Liberty’s legal officer Rhianna Dorrian.

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