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Telesom Dahabshiil
Published On: Fri, Apr 17th, 2020

Saudi princess writes to king to plead for release from prison

Riyadh(ANN)-A prominent Saudi princess, abducted and jailed last year, has pleaded with the king and crown prince for release, citing “deteriorating” health in an unusual public appeal that further highlights persisting tensions within the ruling Al Saud family.

Fifty-six-year-old Princess Basmah bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud — considered a shrewd businesswoman and an outspoken member of the ruling family — made the plea in a letter that was posted Thursday on Twitter.

This was her first public statement since she was incarcerated just before she was due to visit Switzerland for medical treatment in March 2019, according to sources close to her family.    

“As you may be aware I am currently being arbitrarily held at al-Hayer prison without criminal or otherwise any charges,” read the letter published on her verified Twitter account. “My health is deteriorating to an extent that is (severe), and that could lead to my death.”

It was not, however, clear how she was able to tweet from inside the maximum-security prison near the nation’s capital of Riyadh, known for holding political prisoners.

The princess said she had been “thrown into prison” after being “abducted without an explanation” along with one of her daughters.

The letter is the latest sign of turmoil within the kingdom’s secretive royal family, which has been ongoing since the arrest of King Salman’s brother and nephew last month in an apparent bid to stamp out the long-simmering dissent within the royal family.

Last month, a Spanish daily reported that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – widely referred to as MbS – had kidnapped his cousin Princess Basmah, who had been missing for a year, amid a widening crackdown on critical royal voices.

The report described the abducted princess as a critic of the royal family who advocated women’s rights, adding that she was being held in the al-Hayer prison.

Appealing to her uncle King Salman and her cousin MbS, Princess Basmah insisted in her letter that she had “done no wrong” and that her health was “very critical”.

“I have not received medical care or even (a) response to the letters I dispatched from jail to the Royal Court,” she wrote. 

However, she did not specify the nature of her ailment amid suspicions that she may be infected with the coronavirus as the kingdom struggles to contain the fast-spreading pandemic.

The Saudi regime has imposed round-the-clock curfew across much of the country to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Saudi Arabia has so far reported 6,380 infections and 83 deaths from the disease amid reports that the data does not reflect the actual number of cases throughout the oil-rich Persian Gulf nation.

International news outlets reported in early March that the 34-year-old MbS had ordered the arrest of three senior members of the kingdom’s royal family, including his own uncle.

The US-based New York Times identified those arrested as Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, King Salman’s younger brother, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew and a former crown prince, as well as Nayef’s brother, Prince Nawaf bin Nayef.

Other reports said MbS had accused his uncle and the former crown prince of “treason”, alleging that the pair had been planning to stage a coup d’état against the young dictator.

A day later, theTimesreported the arrest of a fourth prince over allegations of a planned coup, identifying him as King Salman’s nephew, Nayef bin Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, whose father was also arrested earlier.

Meanwhile, multiple women activists, clerics, bloggers and journalists have been imprisoned in what observers describe as surging repression and authoritarianism under MbS’s de facto rule as he further tightens his grip on power.

Back in November 2017, dozens of Saudi princes, ministers and former ministers were detained and placed in a luxury hotel under tight security over allegations of money laundering, bribery, extorting officials, and misappropriation of public funds for personal benefits.

The majority of those high-profile figures later agreed to monetary settlements in exchange for their freedom and paid colossal sums of money.

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