Saudi Princess Is Released From Jail After 3 Years

The Saudi government has not said why it detained or released Princess Basmah bint Saud, a daughter of a former king who has been a vociferous critic of the country’s authorities.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A Saudi princess, a strident critic of her country’s government who was jailed nearly three years ago for unclear reasons, has been released, a legal adviser to her family said on Sunday.

The princess, Basmah bint Saud, returned home with her daughter Suhoud, who was imprisoned with her, on Thursday, according to the legal adviser, Henri Estramant.

But it remained unclear whether the women would be allowed to travel abroad, a pressing issue because Princess Basmah needs medical care not available in the kingdom, Mr. Estramant said.

Princess Basmah was among a number of prominent Saudi dissidents and members of the Saudi royal family either jailed or put under house arrest during the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has consolidated his grip on the kingdom since his father, King Salman, ascended to the Saudi throne in 2015.

Those detained have included women who publicly campaigned for the right to drive, which was formally granted in 2018, and members of the royal family whom Prince Mohammed, often referred to by his initials, M.B.S., may have considered a threat to his control.

Some of those who were detained have been released but have been barred from traveling abroad. Those still detained include the former crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, and at least two sons of the previous monarch, King Abdullah.

The Saudi government never explained why Princess Basmah, 58, and Suhoud, who is around 30, were arrested from their home in the Saudi city of Jeddah in March 2019.

Mr. Estramant said that the two women were accused of undefined “criminal offenses” and held in Al Ha’ir Prison, near the capital, Riyadh, but were never formally charged with any crimes.

He said it was unclear why the women had been released, but he praised the move.

“We are pleased that the royal court and M.B.S. acquiesced to release them both,” he said. “It is a good sign as the country continues its process to develop the rule of law.”

Representatives of the Saudi government could not immediately be reached for comment.

Leave a Reply