Rights groups welcome release of Saudi princess and daughter after years in detention

Rights groups welcome release of Saudi princess and daughter after years in detention
3 min read
10 January, 2022
Saudi Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and her daughter Souhoud Al-Sharif were released from prison, the royal's legal advisor Henri Estramant Saturday said on Saturday. Human rights groups welcomed the move.
It is not clear why Saudi authorities decided to release the two royals now [source: Getty]

Human rights groups have welcomed the release of a Saudi princess and her daughter after almost three years in detention. 

Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 57, was detained along with her daughter Souhoud Al-Sharif in 2019, reportedly when preparing to travel to Switzerland for medical treatment. 

Both were held in maximum-security Al-Ha'ir prison, with Saudi dissidents and rights activists claiming their detention was due to the princess’ outspoke criticism of Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS). 

ALQST For Human Rights, an independent, non-for-project organisation working to defend human rights in Saudi Arabia, shared news of the princess' release on Twitter over the weekend.

"At no point during [Basmah’s] detention has any charge been levelled against her," the group added.

Princess Basmah wrote on social media Monday: "I thank God and all those who have supported me from my small family to my global family. 

"May God bestow his forgiveness, peace and light to all." 

The princess' legal adviser confirmed her release Saturday. 

"The two ladies were released from their arbitrary imprisonment and arrived at their home in Jeddah on Thursday, January 6 2022," said Basmah's legal adviser Henri Estramant. 

"The princess is doing fine but will be seeking medical expertise. She seems worn out but is in good spirits, and thankful to reunite with her sons in person," he added. 

It is not clear why Saudi Arabia decided to release the two women now. 

Saudi authorities remained silent on the issue over the weekend, according to The Guardian. 

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Basmah, the youngest child of King Saud, took to Twitter 13 months after her arrest to say she had done nothing wrong and was facing "very critical" health issues. 

The tweets, allegedly sent from detention in April 2020, were quickly deleted. 

In the past, the princess was critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's (MbS) crackdown on dissents and consolidation of power as well as the unequal treatment of women in the kingdom - who until recently were unable to drive.  

She was detained in the same facility as predominant Saudi activist Loujain Al-Hathloul, released in February last year and subjected to physical abuse and torture during her detention, according to her family. 

"[Basmah] thought that her family connections would give her cover," said one senior Saudi royal in exile. "But MBS has locked up bigger family members than her."

Former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s brother Prince Ahmend have all been reportedly detained since MbS became Saudi Arabia's de-facto ruler.