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Danya Hajjaji

Missing Saudi princess pleads for royal family to release her from prison

Princess Basmah went missing after attempting to leave Saudi Arabia in 2018 [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 April, 2020

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In her first statement since her 2018 disappearance, Saudi Princess Basmah has asked her uncle King Salman and cousin Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to release her from prison.
A Saudi princess who has been formerly missing for years spoke out on Thursday for the first time since her disappearance, urging her uncle King Salman and cousin Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to release her from prison.

Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, a high-profile human rights advocate in the ultra-conservative kingdom, vanished after she attempted to leave Saudi Arabia for Switzerland in 2018.

In a series of tweets on her official Twitter profile, Princess Basmah said she was abducted with her daughter without explanation and held in Al-Hair Prison - a maximum-security facility south of capital Riyadh - without criminal charges.

Citing "very critical" health issues, the 56-year-old princess - who is the youngest daughter of Saudi Arabia's second ruler King Abdulaziz - asked the royal family for her freedom.

"My health is deteriorating to an extent that is serve [sic], and that could lead to my death," said Princess Basmah. "I have not received medical care or even response to the letters I dispatched from jail to the Royal Court."

The official Twitter account of Princess Basmah's media office retweeted her pleas and shared a number of news articles pertaining to her detention.

Hailing from a royal family that has faced fierce criticism over human rights abuses, Princess Basmah is known for her outspokenness on human rights.

The princess has written a number of rights-related articles for various news outlets. She has also advocated for constitutional reforms and criticised uneven power structures in the kingdom.

During a 2018 BBC interview, Princess Basmah called for an end to Saudi Arabia's military intervention in Yemen.

"I am still an obedient citizen and I will always be behind the royal family," she told The Independent in 2012.

"But I will never be quiet about what is happening on the ground."

Read more: Comment : Could Mohammed bin Salman's power grab unravel Al Saud rule?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), Saudi Arabia's de-facto ruler, has conducted repeated crackdowns on senior royal family members as recently as last month.

In March, Saudi authorities arrested three princes - including King Salman's brother and nephew - on charges of "plotting a coup to unseat the king and crown prince".

The detained royals could face lifetime imprisonment or execution.

MbS' most stunning purge was launched in 2017, when hundreds of Saudi royals, government officials, and business people were rounded up and detained at Riyadh's Ritz Carlton hotel.

While Saudi officials stated the sweep aimed to tackle corruption in the kingdom, analysts and critics chalked the purge up to MbS' efforts to consolidate power and sideline perceived rivals.


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