The Saudi authorities have released human rights advocate and royal Princess Basmah bint Saud and her daughter jailed without charge for almost three years, a 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 for Human Rights tweeted.
Basmah, 57, is the youngest daughter of King Saud, who ruled Saudi Arabia between 1953 and 1964, and has long been seen as a proponent of women’s rights and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy.
Basmah 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 be released 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 Human Rights Council 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.”
Prior 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 – the Saudi authorities during this period have also cracked down on dissidents, including women’s rights activists and political opponents.
Dozens of senior officials, royals, and business leaders in November 2017 were detained at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel as part of an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign, and in 202 the royal guard arrested King Salman’s brother and nephew, accusing them of fomenting a coup against Prince Mohammed.
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